Bruce Willis shot 22 movies in four years while sick

Bruce Willis shot 22 movies in four years while sick
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His associates pushed him to work despite his condition, an LA Times investigation reveals.

announcement of the retirement of Bruce Willis for health reasons shocked millions of fans this week. The star actor of Die Hard, Pulp Fiction or The fifth Element is suffering fromaphasia, a condition that prevents you from communicating properlywhich proves to be difficult to reconcile with the profession of actor, as detailed in a survey by the Los Angeles Times.

His declining health has been rumored for some time, and this article confirms that the comedian has been ill for at least four years. Over this period, Bruce Willis filmed in 22 DTVs (“Direct-to-DVD”), action films for which his associates have negotiated short shoots (only two days of work for some, never more than 8 hours a day on set for all) for maximum profits: around 2 million dollars per project. The star’s contracts specified not having him perform monologues, only short lines, required a headset so that another actor could speak his lines to him, as well as stuntmen to participate in the action scenes, so that he only shoots the close-ups in person. Films produced for example by the companies Emmett/Furla Oasis and 308 Entertainment Inc, which are mounted very quickly when a popular star such as him signs, even if he appears in the end very little on the screen. This type of productions recently made noise when a special Bruce Willis category was created at the Razzie Awards, the anti-Oscars. Presented this weekend, this parody prize has just been canceled by the organization following revelations about the comedian’s state of health.

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Mike Burns, the producer of one of these films, out of death, admits that he was aware that Bruce Willis suffered from memory loss, but not that his illness was as serious. He explains that he sent out a memo before filming, in June 2020, so that the scenes of the star would be reduced to only 25 pages for this particular film: “After the first day of filming, I realized he had a bigger problem than we had been told, and I realized why we had been asked to reduce his lines.” He then adds that the fact of writing black and white in his contract that he would only have a handful of shooting days made them exhausting for the actor, who had to film all his scenes in very little time. of time. When the team surrounding Willis offered to shoot another DTV with him, Wrong Placehe hesitated. “I asked them : ‘How is Bruce?’ And they told me it was a whole different person… Much better than last year. I believed them.” When filming began in October 2021, Burns immediately regretted agreeing. “I don’t think he was getting better, I thought on the contrary, it was worse. After that, I told them: ‘It’s over, I won’t make any more films with Brice Willis.’ I’m relieved he decided to quit.

Bruce Willis in Hard Kill
EuroVideo

Bruce Willis in Hard Kill, released in France on VOD in March 2020.

The article does not name the members of the team of film professionals who surround Bruce Willis, but specifies that these decisions did not depend on his family (it is his daughters, his wife and his ex-wife Demi Moore who have publicly announced his illness on Wednesday). We also learn that she had been working alongside him for a long time, long before his illness was diagnosed. In particular his agents of the CAA company, very influential in Hollywood.
Only Adam Huel Potter, the person serving as his “prompter” -presented as an actor on the set but in fact mainly responsible for saying his lines to him in a headset- and his closest assistant, Stephen J. Eads, are quoted. Working since the 1990s with him, the latter is officially credited as a producer on his films, but “he actually guides Bruce everywherecomments a person who worked on Hard Kill (Open Sourcein “VF”), another DTV released in 2020. He tells him where to go and watches him.” Another remembers with sadness the filming of White Elephant (currently in post-production), for which his scenes had been shot first, very quickly, to ensure his presence on screen: “He asked aloud, pointing at us: ‘You, I know why you’re here, too… But what am I here for?’ Someone was giving him a line to say and he didn’t even understand what it meant. He was handled like a puppet.” Jesse V. Johnson, who directed the film in question, had known Bruce Willis for about ten years, when he was then a stuntman. Seeing him arrive on set in April 2020, “it was clear this wasn’t the Bruce I remembered, he says. (…) After this experience, we decided as a team that we wouldn’t do any more. We’re all Bruce Willis fans, and it felt like this arrangement was made for the wrong reasons. It’s a sad end to an incredible career, and it made us all feel uncomfortable.” Terri Martin, who oversaw this shoot, confirms: “He had lost it so much, yet he said, ‘I’ll do my best.’ He always did his best. He’s one of the best of all time, and I have a lot of respect and admiration for his work, but it was time for him to retire.”

Lala Kent, who played her daughter in Hard Kill, says for his part that the aphasia that affects Bruce Willis not only prevents him from remembering his lines or playing them correctly, but that it also impacts his physical actions. She takes the example of a sequence where the director had given the actor a simple instruction: say his line so that his partner bends down, then shoot to save his daughter. Except that he shot first, which prevented the actress from shooting the rest of the sequence. “As I had my back to him, at first I wasn’t sure what was going on behind me. The first time, I thought to myself: ‘No problem, we’ll do it again.’ I asked Matt Eskandari to repeat his line before shooting, and we started again. But the next take, he did the exact same thing.”

Chuck Russell, who directed Paradise City last May in Hawaii, assures however that Bruce Willis was very happy to work on this project in particular, because it marked his reunion with one of his partners of pulp Fiction : “He was happy to work with John Travolta, you could see the charm of the old Bruce Willis was still there. He played like his best days, and we made sure he had a good time. with John, may it be a good experience for them.”

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