Bruce Willis is navigating his cognitive decline with grace, his daughter says.
The actor was diagnosed in 2022 with aphasia, a disorder that affects memory and communication, and he retired before his condition progressed to frontotemporal dementia. While gone from the spotlight, Willis is reportedly hanging in there — and is still a die-hard dad.
“He has a really aggressive cognitive disease, a form of dementia that’s very rare,” his daughter Tallulah said on “The Drew Barrymore Show” on Wednesday, later adding that her father “is the same, which I think, in this regard, I’ve learned is the best thing you can ask for.”
“I see love, when I’m with him,” she said. “And it’s my dad, and he loves me.”
Tallulah, who penned a heartbreaking essay about her father’s health struggles in June and has lauded her stepmom Emma Heming for publicly discussing the family’s experience, explained why her blended family has been so open about Willis’ illness with the world at large.
“I think it’s twofold,” Tallulah told Barrymore. “I think on one hand, it’s who we are as a family, but also, it’s really important for us to spread awareness about FTD.” She added that the family “had no idea” what the disease was when Willis was initially diagnosed with it.
“If we can take something that we’re struggling with as a family and individually ― to help other people, to turn it around, to make something beautiful about it — that’s really special for us,” the fashion designer said.
FTD is the result of neuron damage in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain and can result in unusual behavior, communication issues and emotional problems, per the National Institute on Aging. The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration notes there is no known cure.
The average life expectancy after symptoms begin is seven to 13 years.
Fashion designer Tallulah Willis and her father, actor Bruce Willis, at the 2018 "Comedy Central Roast of Bruce Willis" in Los Angeles.
Tallulah said her father’s condition taught her “to make space for the negative self-talk” and to process the anger and pain it’s caused, rather than trying to drown it out. She’s also allowed herself to become nostalgic, and brought old photos of her dad to Wednesday’s “Barrymore” taping.
“Being able to look through those photos ... he’s my age, living in Hell’s Kitchen, and he’s a total goofball and he’s an absurd person,” Tallulah told Barrymore. “And I’m an absurd person, so there’s a wonderful kind of line of connection.”
“Part of what’s been a really beautiful way for me to heal through this is becoming an archaeologist to my dad’s stuff and his world, and his little trinkets and doodads,” she added.
Willis cast Tallulah in two of his films, “Bandits” (2001) and “The Whole Ten Yards” (2004). She reflected Wednesday on him always being ready in the mornings to send her off to school. A musician himself, he’d play songs by the Coasters for his kids.
Despite Willis’ condition, Tallulah noted that some things have yet to change: “It’s a huge part of how I spend time with him now, is playing music.”