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Bruce Willis to retire from acting due to cognitive disease

Bruce Willis, 67, who rose to fame in the 1980s comedy-drama TV series "Moonlighting," has appeared in about 100 films across his four-decade career. File picture
Bruce Willis, 67, who rose to fame in the 1980s comedy-drama TV series "Moonlighting," has appeared in about 100 films across his four-decade career. File picture
Image: Showmax

Bruce Willis, the star of the Die Hard franchise and dozens of other action movies, will retire from acting after being diagnosed with aphasia, a disease that has hampered his “cognitive abilities,” his family said on Wednesday.

Willis, 67, who rose to fame in the 1980s comedy-drama TV series Moonlighting, has appeared in about 100 films across his four-decade career, winning acclaim for such roles in Pulp Fiction and The Sixth Sense, and winning a Golden Globe Award and two Emmys.

But Willis is perhaps best known for playing the tough-as-nails New York cop who shouted “Yippee Ki Yay” while pursuing bad guys in the five Die Hard movies, released from 1988 to 2013.

“This is a really challenging time for our family and we are so appreciative of your continued love, compassion and support,” his family said in a statement.

Willis, together with actress Demi Moore, were one of Hollywood's most high-profile celebrity couples in the 1990s until their divorce in 2000, but they remained close after the break-up. He is now married to model and actress Emma Heming and is father to a total of five children with both women.

“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,” said the statement, which was signed by the actor's family and shared on Instagram by Demi Moore and their daughter Rumer.

Aphasia is a condition affecting an individual's ability to speak and effectively communicate with others. It usually occurs after strokes or head injuries, but can also arise over time due to brain tumours or degenerative diseases, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Willis had been especially active in recent years. He appeared in eight movies released in 2021 alone. None of them were critically acclaimed.

The satirical Razzie film awards gave Willis his own special category this year, nominating him eight times for “Worst Performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 Movie.” The one called Cosmic Sin was awarded the Razzie on Saturday.

Larry Gordon, producer of the first Die Hard movie and its 1990 sequel, said he was saddened by the news of Willis' condition, telling the Hollywood Reporter that the actor was “the consummate pro and a gutsy guy”.

On social media, his fans shared their feelings of sadness and shock after news of his diagnosis broke, and many of them paid tribute to Willis.

“His work has meant more to me than I could ever put into words,” wrote a fan with the Twitter handle Cody Leach.

“If this is in fact the end of your acting career, all I can say is thank you.”

Over the course of his career, the Hollywood veteran has appeared in films grossing more than $2.5 billion, according to online database IMDB. In 2006, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a Los Angeles landmark honouring the legends of film, television and music.

Born on a US military base in Germany in 1955, Willis was raised in New Jersey.

After moving to New York to pursue an acting career, he appeared in off-Broadway productions and landed a few minor roles before getting his big break playing the wisecracking private detective David Addison in the TV show Moonlighting


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