Actor Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, an untreatable disease and the most common form of dementia in people under 60.
Willis’ family announced the diagnosis on the Instagram page of Demi Moore, Willis’ ex-wife, and in a statement on the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration's website. The statement was signed by Willis’ wife, Emma Heming Willis, Moore, and his five children, Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel and Evelyn.
"Unfortunately, challenges with communication are just one symptom of the disease Bruce faces. While this is painful, it is a relief to finally have a clear diagnosis," the family wrote.
The disease, known as FTD, is a progression of aphasia, which Willis has battled since 2022. Willis, 67, stepped away from acting in March following the diagnosis. Willis' family said his aphasia had affected his cognitive abilities.
"Bruce always believed in using his voice in the world to help others, and to raise awareness about important issues both publicly and privately," his family's statement said. "We know in our hearts that – if he could today — he would want to respond by bringing global attention and a connectedness with those who are also dealing with this debilitating disease and how it impacts so many individuals and their families."
"Bruce has always found joy in life – and has helped everyone he knows to do the same," the statement continued. "It has meant the world to see that sense of care echoed back to him and to all of us. We have been so moved by the love you have all shared for our dear husband, father, and friend during this difficult time. Your continued compassion, understanding, and respect will enable us to help Bruce live as full a life as possible."
What causes frontotemporal dementia?
FTD is caused by degeneration of the frontal and/or temporal lobes of the brain, according to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration. Often, a range of new symptoms emerges as the disease progresses.
Actor Bruce Willis attends Premiere of Dimension Films' "Sin City: A Dame To Kill For" at TCL Chinese Theatre on August 19, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
The association says there is no cure, and no way to prevent its onset. Average life expectancy is seven to 13 years after the start of symptoms.
Aphasia is a language disorder caused by damage to an area of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Willis had been working steadily and frequently before last year. Renowned for films like "Die Hard," "Pulp Fiction" and "The Sixth Sense," Willis has in recent years churned out straight-to-video thrillers. In 2021, he starred in a staggering eight films. Most came and went quietly, including titles like "Cosmic Sin," "Out of Death" and "Deadlock."
Most recently, Willis starred in February’s "Gasoline Alley" and "A Day to Die," released in early March 2022. Willis has already shot at least six more films due out in 2022 and 2023, including "Die Like Lovers," "Corrective Measures" and "The Wrong Place."
His four-decade career has amassed more than $5 billion in box office worldwide.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.