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The star's family made the announcement on Wednesday, saying the decision is a result of the Bruce being diagnosed with aphasia. The condition, caused by brain damage, impacts the ability to understand and express speech.
"As a result of this and with much consideration, Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him," said the statement from wife Emma Heming Willis, ex-wife Demi Moore and their children with the Die Hard star.
The reaction from Hollywood has been one of support for the entertainer TV audiences fell in love with in the ’80s on Moonlighting, for which he won an Emmy and Golden Globe. He and Moore were one of the most popular celebrity couples in the ’80s and ’90s. Their every move was tracked, whether it was buying much of Hailey, Idaho, opening Planet Hollywoods or giving their daughters unique names before it was the norm.
Die Hard made him an action movie star, with many, many other film successes, including The Sixth Sense, The Last Boy Scout, Pulp Fiction, 12 Monkeys and Armageddon, to name a few. Bruce, also a singer and harmonica player, also won an Emmy for his Friends guest role in 2020. While he and Moore ended their marriage, they were among the original friendly celebrity exes, blending their family as he went on to find love again with model Emma and welcome two more children. Bruce still has numerous films that are complete but have not yet been released.
The news has drawn many reactions expressing concern for Bruce — and love for his family.
Friend, fellow Planet Hollywood investor and The Expendables co-star Sylvester Stallone shared photos of them together through the years.
"We go back a long way," he wrote. "Praying for the best for you and your wonderful family."
John Travolta said he became good friends with Bruce making two "of our biggest hits together, Pulp Fiction and Look Who’s Talking. Years later he said to me, 'John, I just want you to know that when something good happens to you, I feel like it’s happening to me.' That’s how generous a soul he is. I love you Bruce."
The Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan sent love to his "big brother Bruce... He will always be that hero on that poster on my wall as a kid."
All my love and respect to my big brother Bruce Willis. I know his wonderful family is surrounding him with support and strength. He will always be that hero on that poster on my wall as kid.
— M. Night Shyamalan ⌛ (@MNightShyamalan) March 31, 2022
Haley Joel Osment, Bruce's Sixth Sense co-star, struggled to find the right words the right words for someone I’ve always looked up to — first on the big screen, and then by some wild stroke of luck, in person." He called him "a true legend who has enriched all of our lives with a singular career that spans nearly half a century. I am so grateful for what I got to witness firsthand, and for the enormous body of work he built for us to enjoy for years and years to come. I just wanted to express the respect and deep admiration I have for Bruce and his family as they move forward with the courage and high spirits that have always defined them."
Anthony Hopkins said working with Bruce in 2013's Red 2 "was a special time in my life" and sent love and prayers to his family.
Dean Norris, who worked with Bruce on 2018's Death Wish, was "sorry to hear the news." He called him a "lovely, awesome, badass man" and a "legend."
Kevin Smith, who directed Bruce in 2010's Cop Out, tweeted about the "heartbreaking" news. He also expressed regret over speaking publicly about challenges he had working with Bruce on that film. (It's unclear from the family's statement just how long Bruce has been suffering from this condition.)
"Long before any of the Cop Out stuff, I was a big Bruce Willis fan — so this is really heartbreaking to read," the director wrote. He said Willis loved "to act and sing and the loss of that has to be devastating for him. I feel like an a**hole for my petty complaints from 2010. So sorry to BW and his family."
Long before any of the Cop Out stuff, I was a big Bruce Willis fan - so this is really heartbreaking to read. He loved to act and sing and the loss of that has to be devastating for him. I feel like an asshole for my petty complaints from 2010. So sorry to BW and his family. https://t.co/npSgvkb5v7
— KevinSmith (@ThatKevinSmith) March 30, 2022
Bruce's Glass co-star Sarah Paulson commented on Rumer Willis's Instagram post to say Bruce was "an incredible acting partner to me, and is the loveliest, most gentle and hilarious man. He reigns supreme in my book."
Jamie Lee Curtis commented to Demi that Bruce has "grace and guts" and sent "love to you all!"
Rita Wilson commented to Demi: "My heart goes out to Bruce, and all of the family. So thankful you shared this with us. Keeping you all in our prayers."
Gun control advocate and former congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who also has aphasia, tweeted well wishes to Bruce's family. She also noted how "lonely and isolating" the condition can be.
I'm thinking of Bruce Willis and his family today. Aphasia makes it hard for me to find the right words. It can be lonely and isolating, but @FriendsAphasia is trying to change that.
To everyone living with aphasia, I'm here for you. We got this. https://t.co/KHsirq6u9c
— Gabrielle Giffords (@GabbyGiffords) March 30, 2022
Len Wiseman, who directed Bruce in 2007's Live Free or Die Hard, sent "love and strength" to Bruce" and his "lovely family."
Debi Mazar commented to Demi that "Bruce has given us sooo much" as a performer. "What an amazing career."
Seth Green tweeted that he has "so much love" for Willis and is "grateful for every character he's given us." He sent hugs to the whole family, writing, "Thank you for sharing him with us."
I have so much love for Bruce Willis, and am grateful for every character he’s given us. Hugs and love for the whole family- thank you for sharing him with us all ❤️❤️ https://t.co/ct0HE1Ti2N
— Seth Green (@SethGreen) March 30, 2022
Here are some other reactions, including from Kelly Ripa, Cindy Crawford, Julianne Moore and others:
I wanted to send some love to #BruceWillis. He’s the first celebrity I ever met. Back in the 90’s, touring with Second City at a show in Sun Valley,ID. Imagine our delight when we found out he was in the audience! He came backstage and couldn’t have been sweeter to us wannabes.❤️
— Rachel Dratch (@TheRealDratch) March 31, 2022
All my scenes in Unbreakable were with Bruce Willis. We shot in the rain and he made sure they let me get into the heated pool to warm up between takes. He checked in constantly during the emotional scenes. Just a really good guy. Wishing the best for him and his family pic.twitter.com/3edmbAe1I5
— Julia Yorks (@juliayorks) March 30, 2022
So much love, light, prayers, and strength to Bruce Willis, his wife, children, @justdemi and their entire family during this time.
Have faith, there is hope and incredible geniuses at Mayo Clinic and NIH who work in neurology & study brains. Breakthroughs truly happen every day
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) March 30, 2022
In the family's statement, they shared that it has been a "challenging time" and they "are so appreciative of [the] continued love, compassion and support" from fans. "We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him. As Bruce always says, 'Live it up' and together we plan to do just that."