Bruce Willis appeared to forget he was on a movie set at times in one of his last roles before revealing his aphasia diagnosis, according to a film crew member
Bruce Willis forgot he was on a movie set while filming "Midnight in the Switchgrass" in 2020, a crew member said.
The film's prop master said in the ABC News doc "The Randall Scandal" that Willis thought he was in a real diner.
Willis' family announced he was diagnosed with aphasia and would retire from acting in March 2022.
A prop master on the crime thriller "Midnight in the Switchgrass" said that while filming the movie in 2020, Bruce Willis' symptoms of aphasia were so bad that he sometimes seemed to forget he was on a movie set.
Speaking in the "The Randall Scandal," a new documentary from the Los Angeles Times and ABC News on Hulu that details allegations of producer and director Randall Emmett's abusive behavior, Alicia Haverland said that while filming a scene set in a diner, Willis appeared to believe he actually was in a diner.
Haverland explained that when she'd pour Willis more coffee in order to reset the scene for a new take, Willis seemingly didn't understand that they were filming and addressed her as if she were a waitress at a diner.
"I go over to repour the coffee, and we're probably doing take number seven or eight, and he puts his hand on the coffee, looks me dead in the eye, and goes, 'Oh no, ma'am, I don't want anymore,'" Haverland recalled in the documentary. She said she tried to explain that she was refilling his cup for the scene, and he didn't understand. Instead, according to Haverland, he asked her if he had ordered more coffee.
Haverland recalled in the documentary that she decided to pretend she was a waitress and tell him that he ordered more coffee to finish filming the scene. She described Willis' behavior as "heartbreaking" to watch.
Haverland previously spoke to the LA Times' Amy Kaufman and Meg James about her experience working with Willis on "Midnight in the Switchgrass" as part of an exposé published in June 2022 about the allegations against Emmett. That exposé served as the basis for the new Hulu documentary.
"Our stunt coordinator mentioned he was struggling," Haverland said. "Our first AD saw he was struggling. You would have to be blind to not see him struggling."
Various other crew members on "Midnight in the Switchgrass" told the Times that they witnessed Willis get confused by directions to kick open a door for a scene.
In the Hulu documentary, Haverland said that when she met Willis in 2020, he was "the sweetest, most soft-spoken man." But because of his aphasia, he needed an assistant to feed him his lines through an earpiece he wore at all times.
"We should've said something," she added, admitting that she felt "immensely guilty" that she didn't advocate for Willis, especially because she said Emmett would often start "freaking out" in response to the "Die Hard" star's confusion.
The LA Times reported that Emmett went on to make five other films with Willis, even after his ex-partner Lala Kent said he'd told her that it was "so sad" working with Willis because he "doesn't know where he is." In a March 2022 statement to the LA Times via his lawyer, Emmett denied being aware "of any decline in Mr. Willis' health." He also denied the conversation with Kent, which was reportedly overheard by two people.
According to the LA Times, Willis made the majority of his final films in the last few years of his career with two production companies. One was Emmett/Furla Oasis, the company co-owned by Emmett, with whom Willis made 20 films.
In March 2022, Willis' family announced publicly that he had been diagnosed with aphasia, a condition that can cause loss of speech and difficulty with writing and understanding language. Aphasia sometimes occurs after a stroke.
Willis' family wrote that he was "stepping away" from acting because his aphasia was "impacting his cognitive abilities." The cause of the actor's condition wasn't revealed. Then in February 2023, his family announced his condition had progressed and he'd also been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, a degenerative condition that can have similar signs to Alzheimer's, including memory loss.
A representative for Willis didn't immediately respond to Insider's request for comment. But in the LA Times story, his attorney Martin Singer gave a statement saying that it was Willis' decision to continue working despite his diagnosis.
"My client continued working after his medical diagnosis because he wanted to work and was able to do so, just like many others diagnosed with aphasia who are capable of continuing to work," Singer wrote. "Because Mr. Willis appeared in those films, they could get financed. That resulted in literally thousands of people having jobs, many during the COVID-19 pandemic."
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