Tallulah Willis knew ‘something was wrong’ before Bruce Willis’ dementia diagnosis

Tallulah Willis poses in a leopard-print outfit with puffy sleeves and a plunging neckline.
Tallulah Willis recently opened up about Bruce Willis’ dementia in an essay for Vogue.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision / AP)
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Tallulah Willis has opened up about her evolving relationship with her father, Bruce Willis, and his recent dementia diagnosis.

In an essay for Vogue published Wednesday, the 29-year-old actor and self-proclaimed “nepo baby” of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore detailed some of the symptoms that led to the “Die Hard” star getting diagnosed with aphasia and, later, frontotemporal dementia.

Aphasia is a communication disorder and feature of FTD, an incurable neurological disease that can cause unexplained personality changes and apathy, as well as struggles with decision-making, speaking and language comprehension.


“I’ve known that something was wrong for a long time,” Tallulah Willis said.

“It started out with a kind of vague unresponsiveness, which the family chalked up to Hollywood hearing loss: ‘Speak up! “Die Hard” messed with Dad’s ears.’”

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When that “unresponsiveness broadened,” Tallulah Willis continued, she “sometimes took it personally” — thinking that her father had “lost interest” in her while raising two young daughters with her model stepmother, Emma Heming Willis.

At first, Tallulah Willis explained, she was “too sick ... to handle” what was happening to her dad while living with an eating disorder, anorexia nervosa. She met his dwindling health with “a share of avoidance and denial.”

Then, in 2021, she attended a wedding where the father of the bride delivered “a moving speech.”

“Suddenly I realized that I would never get that moment, my dad speaking about me in adulthood at my wedding,” she recalled.

“It was devastating. I left the dinner table, stepped outside, and wept in the bushes.”

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Reflecting more recently on her eating disorder, which reduced her at one point to 84 pounds, Tallulah Willis wondered how her dad might have helped her if he was in better health.


“I’d like to think that he wouldn’t have let it happen,” she said.

“His style has always been to plug the leak even if he’s not sure why the leak is happening. ... there’s a beauty in his way, and I don’t think I noticed it until he was no longer capable of it.”

Now on the road to recovery, Tallulah Willis said she is able to focus more on supporting and spending time with her ailing father. She described herself as an “archaeologist” who takes “tons of photos” and searches “for treasure” whenever she visits her dad’s home. She recently discovered and pocketed a scrap of paper upon which her father had written a name: “Michael Jordan.”

“I have every voicemail from him saved on a hard drive,” Tallulah Willis said. “I’m trying to document, to build a record for the day when he isn’t there to remind me of him and of us.”

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Dementia has not hindered Bruce Willis’ mobility, and, most days, the “Sixth Sense” actor can be “reliably found” on the first floor of his home in the kitchen, dining room, living room or his office, Tallulah Willis said. He enjoys collecting vintage toy cars, coins, rocks, objects made of brass and other knickknacks, according to his daughter.

“He still knows who I am and lights up when I enter the room,” Tallulah Willis said, adding that her dad might always remember who she is because extreme memory loss is not always a symptom of frontotemporal dementia.

“I keep flipping between the present and the past when I talk about Bruce: he is, he was, he is, he was. That’s because I have hopes for my father that I’m so reluctant to let go of.”


Tallulah Willis is not the only member of the Willis family who has been vocal about Bruce Willis’ dementia battle. The Emmy-winning actor‘s wife, Heming Willis, has been sharing regular updates on his health and spreading awareness about the disease on social media.

“I think it’s important that you see all sides of this,” Heming Willis said in a video she posted in March on her husband’s birthday. “People always tell me ... ‘You’re so strong. I don’t know how you do it.’ I’m not given a choice. I wish I was.”