New details are emerging about Bruce Willis‘ struggle with aphasia that suggest the actor had been experiencing difficulties while at work on movie sets before he publicly announced his diagnosis.
After the LA Times published an exposé about movie producer Randall Emmett detailing abuse and civil fraud allegations, readers were quick to discover that it contained information about Willis’ inability to communicate and act while on the set of Midnight in the Switchgrass in 2020.
Randall Emmett Hired Bruce Willis to Appear in Two Dozen Films Since 2006. Emmett Was Directing Willis in Midnight in the Switchgrass Despite the Actor’s Struggle to Perform.
In the LA Times piece about Emmett, it was revealed that Willis had some serious difficulties while shooting Midnight in the Switchgrass in September 2020. The Die Hard star, now 67, was tasked with kicking down a door for one scene. He tried again and again, take after take but was unable to complete the task. He was being coached through the scene by a voice through an earpiece her wore that also had to feed him his lines because he could no longer remember them.
A stunt coordinator stepped in to try and coach Willis through the scene as well but the actor was unable to understand, seven crew members told the LA Times of the incident.
Emmett, who was directing for the first time, also tried to act out for Willis what he wanted to do for the scene. When that also did not work, Emmett left the set in frustration, eyewitnesses from the incident claimed, and Willis just stood there.
“Did I do something wrong?” he was to said to have asked the crew.
Following the incident, Emmett allegedly called then-fiancée, reality star Lala Kent, and cried.
“It’s just so sad,” he told her. “Bruce can’t remember any of his lines. He doesn’t know where he is.”
In the LA Times piece, Emmett’s attorney denied he was aware “of any decline in Mr. Willis’s health” and denied the conversation with Kent. Emmett went on to make five more films with Willis over the next 15 months.
Insiders Claim That Willis’ Struggles Were an ‘Open Secret.”
Alicia Haverland, a prop master on Midnight in the Switchgrass, which came out in 2021, told the LA Times that Willis’s health struggles were an open secret.
“Our stunt coordinator mentioned he was struggling,” Haverland explained. “Our first AD saw he was struggling. You would have to be blind to not see him struggling.”
“My client continued working after his medical diagnosis because he wanted to work and was able to do so, just like many others diagnosed with aphasia who are capable of continuing to work. Because Mr. Willis appeared in those films, they could get financed,” Willis’s attorney, Martin Singer, said. “That resulted in literally thousands of people having jobs, many during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
In March, Willis’s family announced he had been diagnosed with aphasia and would be retiring from acting.
The sad announcement came hours before another LAT story, that had been in the works, which detailed how aphasia was suspected by Willis’s coworkers for years. Almost two dozen people who had been on set with him in recent years expressed concern about his well-being, especially as he churned out one movie after another. Many of Willis’ latest films went straight to VOD.
Among the claims was a frightening one that Willis unexpectedly fired a gun loaded with a blank on the wrong cue, which the producer and armorer denied. Multiple sources claimed he often seemed confused, once asking, “Why am I here?”
In an interview a year ago with Yahoo Entertainment, Emmett was asked about his experience directing Willis. He did not let on that anything was wrong with Willis.
“As a producer, when I walk on a set and see Bruce, I give him a hug, sit in my chair, watch the director direct, and then we go to dinner and I go home,” he told the outlet. “When I was directing and Bruce walked onto the set, I was petrified! He’s a guy that I’ve known for 15 years, but I had to talk to him in a very different light. If I didn’t like something, I’d have to tell him. So it was a whole other psychology, but it ended up being better than I expected because he’s a giving actor.”
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He said at the time that Willis took the role “as a favor to me, not for the kind of money that he takes on all of his other movies. I mean, he’s Bruce Willis — he doesn’t need a lot of direction. That’s why I wanted to cast great actors in this: half the battle is already won there. It’s not like I had to teach anybody how to act!”
It’s sad to learn that Bruce Willis has been struggling with aphasia for much longer than his announcement let on. It’s also unfortunate that more people did not speak up as it does appear that Willis was not in the best of health to be safe on set.
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