Bruce Willis asked ‘Why am I here?’ on the set of one of his latest films

This week, Bruce Willis’s wife, Emma Heming Willis, released a statement announcing that the 67-year-old star’s aphasia condition has progressed and he has now been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia. Over the past few years before his retirement, the action star produced a string of direct-to-video movies, some of which only see him as a cameo in a few scenes. Sadly, the telltale signs of his health battles prevailed on set.

After the actor’s aphasia diagnosis was made public, the director of the 2021 film White Elephant spoke out. Jesse V Johnson told the LA Times: ‘It was clear he wasn’t the Bruce I remembered [from being a stuntman years ago]”.

As a result, his scenes were requested to be finished by lunchtime so he could be let go early. Tragically, the action star would ask the crew members, “I know why you’re here and I know why you’re here, but why am I here?” One crew member recalled, “It was less annoying and more like, ‘How do we not make Bruce look bad?’ Someone would give him a line and he wouldn’t understand what it meant. He was just being a puppet.”

The director was offered two more films with the star, but said: “After our experience on White Elephant, it was decided as a team that we would not do another one. We’re all Bruce Willis fans, and the arrangement just felt wrong and ultimately made for a pretty sad end to an amazing career, one that none of us felt comfortable with.”

Meanwhile, at Hard Kill in 2020, Willis reportedly fired a blank gun twice, according to at least two people.

The star’s former assistant, Stephen J. Eads, was paid up to $200,000 per film to babysit him on set. And actor Adam Huel Potter earned $4,150 a week to feed Willis his lines through a headset in the Open Source movie.

In 2021’s Out of Death, his airtime was cut and he was not allowed monologues and by 2022’s Wrong Place, the star was “getting worse”. Director Mike Burns later said: “I’m done. I’m not going to do another Bruce Willis movie.’ I’m relieved he’s taking some time off.”

However, in one of his last films, Paradise City with John Travolta, the director said that he “brought his A game.”

White Elephant production supervisor Terri Martin told the LA Times: “He seemed so lost that he was like, ‘I’ll do the best I can.’ He always did the best he could. He is one of the all-time greats, and I have the greatest admiration and respect for his work, but it was time for him to retire.”

Willis has at least one more movie to release called Assassin, which opens in select US theaters and VOD on March 31, 2023.


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