A lawyer representing actor Bruce Willis has insisted that the star “wanted to work” in the years after it allegedly became apparent to people around him in Hollywood that he was struggling with aphasia, a cognitive disorder that has affected his ability to understand and express speech.
“My client continued working after his medical diagnosis because he wanted to work,” attorney Martin Singer said in response to a new Los Angeles Times report about “wheeler-dealer” producer Randall Emmett. The producer is known for cranking out “low-budget, high-testosterone, assault-gun-and-explosions films” headlined by past-their-prime older white male stars such as Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Mel Gibson.
The report alleges that Emmett paid Willis millions of dollars to churn out five low-budget action films even after observing the “Die Hard” actor in September 2020 struggle on the set of the movie, “Midnight in the Switchgrass.”
Seven crew members told the Times that Emmett, directing the movie, and his colleagues tried to persuade Bruce Willis to kick open a door. During the late-night shoot, someone coached Willis through an earpiece, a stunt coordinator “gently” attempted to guide him, and Emmett mimed the actions for the actor to imitate, but, “take after take, Willis did not seem to understand,” the Times reported.
That night, a frustrated Emmett called his then-fiancée, Lala Kent, crying.
“I can’t do this anymore,” Kent recalled him saying in a call overheard by two other people, the Times said. “It’s just so sad. Bruce can’t remember any of his lines. He doesn’t know where he is.”
Singer insisted to the Times that Willis was willing and able to work up until recently, “just like many others with aphasia who are capable of continuing to work.” He also credited Willis with attaching his name to those films because that’s how they could get financed. “That resulted in literally thousands of people having jobs, many during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Singer said.
Willis’ family announced in late March that Willis, 67, was “stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him” after being diagnosed with the condition, which also is known to develop in people who have suffered strokes, the Los Angeles Times also reported. Sharing the news on social media, the Willis family said it had been a “really challenging time” for them and thanked fans for their “continued love, compassion and support.”
Shortly after the family’s announcement, the Los Angeles Times reported that Willis’ condition had been an open secret in Hollywood in recent years. Nearly two dozen people who worked with Willis told the Times that the actor had been exhibiting signs of decline and questioned whether he was fully aware of his surroundings on film sets, where he was often paid $2 million for two days of work, the Times said.
“Filmmakers described heart-wrenching scenes as the beloved ‘Pulp Fiction’ star grappled with his loss of mental acuity and an inability to remember his dialogue,” the Los Angeles Times reported. The Times also reported that Willis’ action scenes, especially those involving choreographed gunfire, were filmed using a body double.