Not Totally Verbal”: Moonlighting Creator Discusses Bruce Willis’ Dementia Challenge

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In March of last year, Bruce Willis’s family made the announcement that he would be retiring from acting due to a diagnosis of aphasia. Almost a year later, a more specific diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) was given. Over this period, Willis’s family has been sharing updates on his life. This included celebrating his 68th birthday earlier this year, where he was joined by his ex-wife Demi Moore and their three children, Scout, Rumer, and Tallulah, as well as his current wife, Emma Heming Willis, and their two children, Mabel and Evelyn.

Moonlighting, the ABC series from the late 1980s in which Bruce Willis starred, became available for streaming on Hulu this month. It was revealed that Willis was eager for the show to be accessible to a wider audience. Glenn Gordon Caron, the creator of Moonlighting, explained that he had communicated with Willis about getting the show on Hulu while Willis was still able to communicate, as FTD is a progressive disease. Caron stated, “I know it means a lot to him.”

Caron also mentioned that he has stayed in contact with Willis’s wife and three older children after colleagues on the sets of Willis’s recent films had expressed concern about his well-being before the diagnosis. Caron expressed, “The thing that makes [his disease] so mind-blowing is [that] if you’ve ever spent time with Bruce Willis, there is no one who had any more joie de vivre than he. He loved life and…just adored waking up every morning and trying to live life to its fullest.”

As for Willis’s condition, Caron described that FTD has significantly affected his ability to communicate, comparing it to seeing life “through a screen door.” However, he believes Willis can still recognize him during the first one to three minutes of their interactions. Caron explained that Willis is no longer entirely verbal and has lost the ability to read, despite being a voracious reader in the past. Yet, Caron emphasized that Willis is still fundamentally himself. He said, “When you’re with him you know that he’s Bruce and you’re grateful that he’s there, but the joie de vivre is gone.”

Willis’s wife, Emma Heming Willis, provided her own update during World Frontotemporal Dementia Awareness week last month. She acknowledged that Willis’s condition is challenging for the family but also highlighted the beautiful moments in their lives. She emphasized the importance of focusing on the joy amidst the grief and sadness, as she believes Bruce would want them to find joy in the present.