I was not surprised when Bruce Willis’ daughter announced this week that he was “stepping away” from acting because of what she called “aphasia.” For actors, that can be a convenient technical term for “I can’t remember my lines, and it’s not my fault,” but in Willis’s case—he’s only 67—many believe it may mean more, like that he is suffering from the after-effects of a stroke or head injury. The reason I was not surprised by the announcement is that the “Die Hard” superstar’s movie appearances have been embarrassing to him and painful to watch for at least 3 years, and there was no discernible reason, other than the fact that he appeared to be not fully engaged.
During the pandemic, when my wife and I were forced to watch far more movies we had never heard of than we wanted to, we quickly learned to avoid any Willis movie of recent vintage, and there are a lot of them. It was puzzling: Willis would be named up front as one of the stars, but he frequently had nothing to do. He looked okay, except that the spark was gone, and Bruce Willis’s spark is most of his justification for being on screen. He showed no energy, moved slowly, seldom changed expression, and delivered his lines flatly. It was suspicious. And it wasn’t our imagination. One tweeting movie fan wrote in February,
While I wasn’t paying attention Bruce Willis became the king of crappy, low budget, direct to video action films. 32 of them since 2014. Apparently he gets most of the film’s budget to show up for a day or two of filming then they build the rest of the movie around that. Nice.