The family of Bruce Willis (Idar-Oberstein, Germany, 68 years old) announced in March 2022 that the actor suffered from aphasia, a brain disease that affects speech, which forced him to abandon his career in Hollywood. A year later, his loved ones made public that this symptom was a characteristic of the frontotemporal dementia he really suffered, a progressive neurological disorder that undermines his cognition and behavior day by day, according to his daughter Tallulah Willis (Los Angeles, 29 years old) in a text written for Vogue magazine. . "I've known something was wrong for a long time," says the youngest of the three daughters from Willis' relationship with Demi Moore. "It started with a vague lack of response that the family attributed to hearing loss. Later, that lack of response was amplified and sometimes I took it personally. I had two babies with my stepmother, Emma Heming Willis, and I thought she had lost interest in me."
Tallulah opens up in her writing, and admits that she has "known Bruce's decline in recent years with a part of avoidance and denial" of which she is not proud. "The truth is that I was too sick to handle it," she justifies herself before listing the different disorders she has suffered throughout her life, among which are anorexia nervosa, depression or ADHD. "While I was wrapped up in my body dysmorphia, flaunting it on Instagram, my father struggled silently. All kinds of cognitive tests were being performed, but we still did not have a diagnosis," she says in the publication, where she also recalls the first moment in which the reality of the actor's illness "hit her painfully." "I was at a wedding in the summer of 2021 on Martha's Vineyard and the father of the bride gave a moving speech. Suddenly, I realized that I would never have that moment, my father will never talk about me at my wedding. It was devastating. I left the table, went out and cried in the bushes," confesses Tallulah, who in June last year broke off her engagement to film director Dillon Buss.
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After going through several rehabilitation centers and trying different therapies to treat her eating and mental disorders, the little girl of the Willis-Moore family believes that she now has the tools to be present in all facets of her life. "And especially in my relationship with my father," he says. "In the past I was very afraid that sadness would destroy me, but finally I feel like I can savor that time, hold my father's hand, and feel that it's wonderful," she writes.
Now, he confesses that he takes "tons of photos" every time he goes to Bruce's house — "I'm like an archaeologist, searching for treasures in things I never used to pay attention to" — and saves all his voicemails on a hard drive. "I try to build a record for the day he isn't there, to remember him and us," she explains.
Tallulah Willis, at the GQ Men Of The Year 2022 party in West Hollywood in November. Gregg DeGuire (FilmMagic/Getty Images)
Beyond the state of her father's health, Tallulah also takes advantage of the publication to open up about the difficulties of growing up in a famous family, "struggling to find a patch of light through the long shadows" cast by her parents. According to him, his world changed completely when he was 11 years old, after attending an event in New York with his mother, Demi Moore, and who was his partner at the time, actor Ashton Kutcher. "I felt terribly grown up and was very happy with myself, so I wanted to see if my outfit had appeared on the party pages of style websites. I opened my laptop and there I was in my preteen awkwardness, standing next to my famously beautiful mother. Then I found the comments, hundreds of them, and the words just burned on the screen. 'Wow, he looks deformed. Look at his man's jaw, it's like an ugly version of his father. His mother must be so disappointed.' I remember how deadly silent the room was. I sat reading for two hours, believing I had stumbled upon a truth about myself that no one had told me because they were trying to protect me. And for years afterward, protecting people back, I didn't tell anyone. I simply lived with the silent certainty of my own ugliness," he reveals.
Rumer Willis, Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Tallulah Willis, at Bruce Willis' Comedy Central Roast after-party in Los Angeles in 2018.Phil Faraone/VMN18 (Getty Images)
Even so, the actress also recalls the good times she has lived with her family, such as the recent birth of her niece Louetta, daughter of her sister Rummer, who has become grandparents who for 11 years were one of the most beloved and famous couples in cinema. "There's a little creature that changes every hour and at the same time there's something happening with my father that can change so quickly and unpredictably. It feels like a unique and special moment in my family, and I'm so happy to be here for it." These days, he warns, his father can be found on the first floor of the house, somewhere in the large open space occupied by the kitchen, dining room and living room, or in his office. "Fortunately, dementia has not affected their mobility," he celebrates. The advantage of frontotemporal dementia over Alzheimer's, he explains, is that it is characterized by language deficits rather than memory loss. "He still knows who I am and lights up when I walk into the room," she acknowledges.
The actor's third daughter alternates present and past tenses to refer to Bruce: "He was great and charming and slick and elegant and sweet and a little crazy, and I embrace all that. Those are the genes I inherited from him." She attributes it to the hope she still places in him and that she is reluctant to let go. "I've always recognized elements of his personality in me," he says, "and I know we'd be very good friends if there was more time."