Friends and family of Bruce Willis believe that a head injury he suffered on the set of the 2002 action movie Tears of the Sun could be the cause of the debilitating brain disease that has ended his career, but a special effects worker on the movie denied the claim.
Family – including ex-wife Demi Moore, current wife Emma Heming and daughter Rumer Willis – announced on Wednesday that the ‘Die Hard’ actor was diagnosed with aphasia, a neuro-cognitive disorder that effects the sufferers ability to speak and understand language. As a result, Willis was ‘stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him.’
An unknown friend told The Sun that his family believes that the disability could be linked to a hit he took to the head on the action-rescue film.
Willis sued the production company, Revolution Studio, and the action movie’s special effects professional Joe Pancake in 2004, claiming he had suffered ‘substantial mental and physical injuries’ after he had been hit by a ‘squib’ – a special effects explosive meant to look like the impact of gunfire, during the October 2002 production.
Pancake called Willis’s injuries ‘bullsh–‘ in an interview with DailyMail.com on Thursday.
‘The judge laughed him out of court,’ Pancake said.
According to the special effects guy, Willis and three other actors were firing off hundreds of rounds of blanks from their automatic rifles and a ‘hot shell casing’ hit the actor in the forehead.
Bruce Willis, 67, sued the production company for a ‘mental’ injury he claimed he suffered on the movie set of ‘Tears of the Sun.’ He’s shown here playing the part of a battle-harden American soldier
Willis, shown here with co-star Monica Bellucci, claimed that a special effects explosive hit him in the head during filming of the movie
Willis’s injury from an explosive hitting him in the head required medical attention, he claimed in a lawsuit
In the film, Willis played the role of Lt. AK Waters, a battle-hardened combat soldier leading his troop on a mission to save a humanitarian doctor pinned down by rebels in the jungle of Nigeria.
The suit claims that the actor endured ‘extreme mental, physical and emotional pain and suffering’ from his injuries.
Lawyers for the Die Hard actor said in court papers that Willis ‘was required to and did employ physicians and other medical personnel.’
The suit was settled in August 2005, but it’s unclear if any money exchanged hands.
No one at Revolution Studio, which also made ‘Hellboy’ and ‘Black Hawk Down,’ was available comment.
Pancake on Thursday denied that Willis was hit with a squib.
‘In my 38 years of experience I know that they don’t fly up and hit you in the head,’ he said. ‘He tried to blame my department. He dragged my name through the mud for two years. It was ‘bullsh–.’
After all his allegations they made him show his medical records and you know what the doctor prescribed him? Tylenol.’
Special effects professional Joe Pancake denied that Willis was injured on the set, saying that the actor was merely struck in the head by a hot shell casing
Pancake, pictured here, said that Willis’s doctors prescribed Tylenol for his injuries. He said the judge ‘laughed it out of court’
His family shared a statement on their social media pages announcing his diagnosis on Wednesday and saying he will be be ‘stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him’
Pancake said he enjoyed working with Willis.
‘He was great to work with,’ Pancake said. ‘Me and him got along great until he named me in the suit. I wasn’t even the special effect coordinator, but he remembered my name.’
Though admittedly he has no medical background, Pancake said that a 20-year-old injury would not manifest itself now.
‘I’m not a doctor and I know that’ he said.
Sources say acclaimed actor Bruce Willis, 67, has been having trouble on the sets of his recent movies, and was even pictured wearing an earpiece to feed him lines on the set of American Siege in 2020
Willis is perhaps best known for his role in the Die Hard series as John McClane
Bruce Willis was a hit in the 1994 Quentin Tarantino film Pulp Fiction
Willis became a major action star with his 1988 breakthrough film Die Hard
Pancake said he thought Willis sued because his acting career was flagging at that time.
‘It was a publicity stunt because he was washed up,’ he said. ‘He went from a $20-million-a-movie actor to nothing.’
Willis’s cognitive problems became an open secret in Hollywood, according to reports.
‘It was becoming super obvious he was having trouble,’ an unknown source told PageSix. ‘He could not act anymore.’
As the Daily Mail exclusively reported, he was photographed in a scene in his new movie American Siege, which was filmed in 2020, wearing an earpiece.
He also linked on an earpiece to be fed his lines in 2015 Broadway production of ‘Misery,’ OK Magazine reported.
He was also reportedly struggling during the filming of M. Night Shyamalan’s 2019 film Glass.
His most recent films, like Cosmic Sun, have been panned by critics, and the actor has now won the award for ‘worst films of 2021’ at the Razzies
‘While filming Glass, staffers worked around him by cutting and editing and having him overdub lines because he struggled to remember and/or deliver them,’ they told the publication, according to the New Zealand Herald.
‘In most scenes on Glass he’s hooded, and they used stand-in and body doubles to replace him. On set, he wouldn’t smile and was always chaperoned by an assistant to guide him while walking.’
The source also said at the time that Willis had sold his New York property to spend more time with his wife and children in Los Angeles, and said that his wife, as well as ex-wife Demi Moore, were working together to take care of the famous actor.
‘His wife Emma has helped Demi Moore and the children Bruce shares with his ex-wife to make truces because they know he’s fading,’ the unnamed source told the magazine in January 2021.
‘Between Demi and Emma, the family has always ensured Bruce has the support and care he might need at any given time,’ the insider said.
They added, ‘The good news is that although there is the real concern of dementia fears, it largely has not impacted his ability to work in Hollywood – and in true super hero form – he won’t slow down because new technology like earpieces allows actors of his caliber not to skip a beat.’
But in recent years, the New Zealand Herald reports, die hard fans of the actor have noticed he was taking more roles in straight-to-video releases.
This year, Page Six reports, Willis was given his own category at the Razzies – a parody award show honoring the worst of cinematic under-achievements – for the ‘worst movies of 2021’ after he starred in eight critically-panned films.
One of his films, Out of Death, earned a zero percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The parody awards show apologized to the actor following the announcement of his diagnosis on Wednesday, tweeting: ‘The Razzies are truly sorry for #BruceWillis’ diagnosed condition.
‘Perhaps this explains why he wanted to go out with a bang in 2021. Our best wishes to Bruce and family.’