Action icon Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with untreatable Dementia less than a year after he retired from acting because of growing cognitive difficulties. The 67-year-old US actor best known for his role in the Die Hard franchise stepped away from Hollywood and his acting career in March last year and has been out of the limelight since then.
“Since we announced Bruce’s diagnosis of Aphasia in spring 2022, Bruce’s condition has progressed and we now have a more specific diagnosis: Frontotemporal Dementia,” a statement from his family said.
Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) is an umbrella term for disorders affecting the areas of the brain that deal with personality, behaviour and language.
“Unfortunately, challenges with communication are just one symptom of the disease Bruce faces,” the family statement said. “While this is painful, it is a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis.”
“Today there are no treatments for the disease, a reality that we hope can change in the years ahead.” Doctors say the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain shrink in a patient with FTD.
Willis is widely considered an icon of American cinema and television, with a career spanning over four decades. He became a household name in the 1980s and 90s after starring in blockbuster films such as Die Hard, The Sixth Sense, Armageddon and Pulp Fiction. He has also been nominated for five Golden Globes ‒ winning one for Moonlighting ‒ and also three Emmys, where he won two.
In addition to his acting work, Willis has also become known for his contributions to various charitable causes, including efforts to support wounded soldiers, education, and disaster relief. His career and philanthropic work have made him a beloved and respected figure in the entertainment industry and beyond, cementing his status as an icon.
So, when his family, with heavy hearts, announced last year that Willis would give up acting, as his Aphasia was affecting his cognitive abilities, the whole world mourned with them. The new statement said they hoped media attention would raise awareness of the actor’s condition. It said, “Bruce always believed in using his voice in the world to help others, and to raise awareness about important issues both publicly and privately.”
“We know in our hearts that - if he could today - he would want to respond by bringing global attention and a connectedness with those who are also dealing with this debilitating disease and how it impacts so many individuals and their families.”
The statement was signed by members of Willis’s family including his wife Emma Heming ‒ with whom he has two daughters ‒ and his former wife Demi Moore and their three daughters.
According to the UK NHS website, Frontotemporal Dementia is an “uncommon” form of the disease that causes the sufferer problems with behaviour and language. Symptoms also include slow or stiff movements, loss of control over bodily functions (although this tends to be later on) and muscle weakness.
What causes this to happen is not known, but as the condition worsens over the years, it can also result in personality changes, or modifications in behaviour that might make someone socially inappropriate, impulsive or unemotional and unresponsive towards those around them.