Bruce Willis has appeared in twenty-two feature films since 2018, and the vast majority are disposable by design. Cheaply produced, straight to streaming, and featuring performers who are mostly well below Willis’s star calibre—or pay grade—they bear titles that suggest a game of action-flick Mad Libs, or maybe an accidental wingnut haiku: “American Siege,” “Cosmic Sin,” “Survive the Night,” “Deadlock,” “Fortress,” “Breach.”
Until recently, many Willis fans took a cynical, hard-bitten view of this prodigious output. Like his spiritual predecessor Charles Bronson, Willis, who is sixty-seven, had presumably made a conscious decision to simply switch his quality-control filter to the Off position in his golden years, raking in cash that he couldn’t possibly need. He was an icon cruising on autopilot, and, after watching him save the world several times over, who could blame him? As John McClane, the human one-liner dispenser that Willis played in the “Die Hard” franchise, might have told skeptics, “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!”
Then, last week, Willis’s family announced that he is suffering from aphasia, a cognitive disorder affecting the ability to produce and understand speech, and that he was “stepping away” from acting as a result.
A subsequent report in the Los Angeles Times revealed that Willis’s decline had been apparent on set for years, and that his handlers had been maintaining his productivity by drastically cutting down his parts and even feeding him lines through an earpiece.
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