The extent that Bruce Willis struggled before going public with his aphasia diagnosis is being brought to light.
Within the Los Angeles Times‘s exposé about Hollywood producer Randall Emmett — who faces abuse allegations and civil fraud claims — Willis’s struggles with acting, amid his struggles to communicate due to the disorder, are detailed. Emmett hired Willis to appear in two dozen films since 2006.
While shooting Midnight in the Switchgrass in September 2020, the action superstar from the Die Hard franchise, now 67, couldn’t kick open a door — take after take. Willis, who had his lines fed to him via an earpiece because he could no longer remember them — was being coached through the scene by the voice on the other end. A stunt coordinator also tried to guide him. However, Willis didn’t seem to understand, seven crew members who were present claimed to the outlet.
Emmett, who was directing for the first time, also tried to mimic for Willis what he needed to do for the scene. When that also failed, Emmett left the set in frustration, eyewitnesses claimed, and Willis stood there.
“Did I do something wrong?” he asked the crew.
Emmett — who’s accused in the piece of offering actresses work in exchange for sex, among other things (he denied the allegations) — reportedly called his then-fiancée, reality star Lala Kent, and cried: “It’s just so sad. Bruce can’t remember any of his lines. He doesn’t know where he is.”
In the story, Emmett’s rep 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
Alicia Haverland, a prop master on Midnight in the Switchgrass, which came out in June 2021, told the outlet that Willis’s health struggles were an open secret.
“Our stunt coordinator mentioned he was struggling,” Haverland said. “Our first AD saw he was struggling. You would have to be blind to not see him struggling.”
Willis’s attorney, Martin Singer, told the LAT, “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. 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 family’s 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. Nearly 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 which went straight to VOD. Among the claims was that Willis unexpectedly fired a gun loaded with a blank on the wrong cue, which the producer and armorer denied. Multiple set sources claimed he often seemed confused, once asking, “Why am I here?”
When Yahoo Entertainment spoke to Emmett last year about directing Willis in Switchgrass, he didn’t let on at all that Willis was struggling.
“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 said at the time. “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.”
He said 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!”
The latest LAT piece details how Willis’s many in recent roles were a huge part of Emmett’s production company Emmett/Furla Oasis’s success. The exposé really centers on Emmett’s Hollywood dealings — and there are some disturbing allegations.
Through interviews and confidential documents, the outlet reports that several women accused Emmett of pursuing them in inappropriate ways, including one who alleged she was offered acting work in exchange for sexual favors. He reportedly reached a $200,000 settlement with the woman, arranged by attorney Gloria Allred. Another woman claimed he sent her unsolicited pictures. It’s claimed that he paid women to sign nondisclosure agreements to keep their alleged intimate relationships secret.
Kent, who Emmett split from last year, also claimed in the piece that Emmett tackled her and knocked her to the ground when she asked to see his phone after he was linked to other women. She also claimed to the outlet that she was offered $14,000 at the start of their relationship — while he was still married to actress Ambyr Childers — but she declined. Emmett denied the allegations against him in the article — and claimed Kent was orchestrating a “smear campaign” against him.
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