Bruce Willis Announces Aphasia Diagnosis, Retirement from Acting

Hollywood megastar Bruce Willis has ruled the box office as one of Hollywood’s leading men for decades. From his first starring role on TV’s Moonlighting to his breakout as Det. John McClane in the Die Hard franchise, Willis went on to anchor a wide range of hits including Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, and Armageddon.

Willis, 67, has seen his career continue unabated, with roles in 8 films set for upcoming release. This is why fans were recently left stunned when the actor’s family revealed his painful secret: Willis has spent the last several years living with a diagnosis of aphasia and has announced his immediate retirement from performing.

The Canada-based Aphasia Institute defines aphasia as a cognitive disability related to speech and hearing awareness – basically, an acquired loss of language skills. This condition can leave an otherwise capable individual with difficulty understanding or expressing opinions, thought, writing, and emotions. Often, a person with aphasia will be reduced to speaking in short sentences that become difficult for others to understand. May in Canada is Speech and Hearing Awareness month, an important time to raise awareness around conditions like aphasia and the impacts on those who are experiencing these disabling symptoms.

The announcement that Willis is stepping away from acting was made on Instagram by his current wife, Emma Heming, his ex-wife Demi Moore, and their daughter Rumer, and his four other children. It stated:

“This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support. We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him.”

While Willis’ family has elected to not disclose the cause of his aphasia, these cases are often the result of damage to the left hemisphere of the brain. As well, aphasia can often be a side effect of different diagnoses that require medical treatment – most commonly a stroke, but also tumours, infections, traumatic brain injuries, or neurodegenerative diseases.

The Aphasia Institute estimates there are currently over 100,000 Canadians living with aphasia, and as well one in three stroke survivors will end up diagnosed with aphasia. As the current population ages, these numbers are expected to climb.

While Willis has chosen not to disclose how long he’s lived with his aphasia, many Hollywood insiders have noted his particularly prolific output in recent years, perhaps in an effort to bank as much work as possible in light of his impending retirement. Some had even chosen to mock the lower profile and smaller budget roles Willis had recently accepted, including the infamous “Razzie Awards”, which this year devoted an entire category to ‘Worst Performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 Movie’. Following Willis’ aphasia announcement, the Razzies quickly rescinded the “award”.

There are many different types of aphasia, with the three main subsets being receptive aphasia (a difficulty understanding), expressive aphasia (a difficulty expressing thoughts and speech), and global aphasia (involving both). While the majority of aphasia cases are in older populations, due to its connection as a side effect of strokes, the truth is aphasia affects Canadians of all ages.

Willis’ announcement of his aphasia diagnosis and retirement from acting elicited scores of well-wishes from his Hollywood co-stars and friends. Larry Gordon, producer on several Die Hard movies said he was saddened by the news, telling the Hollywood Reporter that his friend Willis is "the consummate pro and a gutsy guy." Halloween Actress Jamie Lee Curtis immediately commented "Grace and guts! Love to you all!"

Throughout his massively impressive career, Bruce Willis’ films have grossed an estimated $2.5 billion at the box office. In 2006, Willis was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. With the amount of joy, laughter, and thrills that this big screen icon has brought to his fans over the years, millions have come together to wish him comfort and good luck in his well-earned retirement.

If you are experiencing aphasia, and a long term disability insurance company denies your LTD claim, we can help. With 35 years of experience as a disability law firm in Ontario, Share Lawyers has helped many clients, including those with epilepsy, ALS, Alzheimer's disease, and other neurological conditions, get the disability benefits they rightfully deserve. Disability law in Canada is always evolving and now covers more conditions than ever before and legal precedent suggests that disability can and should be interpreted in broad terms.

At Share Lawyers we understand and empathize with the challenge represented by living with aphasia, or assisting a family member who is suffering. While promising medical treatments and long term care options are currently being developed, for the time being we know invisible disabilities are very real and put individuals in precarious and dangerous situations every day. The long term disability lawyers at Share Lawyers have experience in helping people with neurological conditions get the LTD benefits that they need.

If you have had your claim for long term disability denied,contactthe long term disability insurance lawyers at Share Lawyers. Our 35+ years of experience in long term disability (LTD) law can help you win your case against Canada Life, Desjardins, Manulife, RBC Insurance, Sun Life, and other insurance companies. We offer free consultations and there are no fees unless you win your case. Join us on Facebook and become a Top Fan for a chance to win each month.

We’re here to support you during this difficult time

How can we help?