The actor's family announced his aphasia diagnosis in March.
Bruce Willis' lawyer is responding to claims that Randall Emmett was aware of his client's aphasia diagnosis before it was publicly revealed. On Thursday, The Los Angeles Times published a lengthy article about Emmett's dealings in the entertainment world through his production company, Emmett/Furla Oasis, which is behind more than two dozen films with the actor.
According to the outlet, Emmett became aware of Willis' health struggles in September 2020, when the actor was starring in Emmett's directorial debut, Midnight in the Switchgrass.
Throughout the filming of the project, the outlet alleges, Willis was fed lines through an earpiece. At one point, the outlet claims, Emmett and other crew members were unable to get Willis to kick down a door for a scene.
"Did I do something wrong?" Willis questioned when Emmett stormed off the set in frustration, three crew members tell The Times.
Shortly thereafter, Lala Kent, the first-time director's then-fiancée, claims she received a tearful call from Emmett.
"I can’t do this anymore," Kent recalled Emmett allegedly saying on the phone call, which was overheard by two other people, according to The Times. "It’s just so sad. Bruce can’t remember any of his lines. He doesn’t know where he is."
The producer went on to make five more movies with Willis over the next 15 months, as the actor privately battled aphasia, a condition that, according to the Mayo Clinic, "robs you of the ability to communicate" and "can affect your ability to speak, write and understand language, both verbal and written."
Emmett, in a statement to The Times, denies the conversation with Kent occurred or that he was aware "of any decline in Mr. Willis’ health."
However, Alicia Haverland, a property master on the film, tells the outlet, "You would have to be blind to not see [Willis] struggling."
"He was never alone," Anna Szymanska, Emmett's one-time assistant, tells the outlet of Willis. "When nobody from Bruce’s team was around, the crew would say how sad we were to see him in this state.”
It was for that reason, a source previously told ET, that Willis' family eventually went public with his aphasia diagnosis in March 2022.
"Bruce has been struggling for quite some time. He has tried to keep his health struggles private, but last year, his health started declining more," the source said at the time. "He made a plan to make a bunch of movies and do as much as he could career wise, so that he could retire and take care of his family."
Amid Willis' continued work for Emmett, "the walls were closing in" on the producer's company, according to The Times. Currently, Emmett/Furla Oasis is facing nearly a dozen lawsuits due to an alleged debt of more than $25 million, the outlet reports.
According to The Times, Willis, who routinely made $2 million for two days' work, was thought of as a solution to Emmett/Furla Oasis' financial woes. Szymanska claims to the outlet that she often heard Emmett and his business partner, George Furla, discussing making "another bulls**t Bruce Willis movie" when money was tight.
Emmett denies that he made such remarks, his spokesperson, Sallie Hofmeister, tells the outlet. In a statement to ET, Emmett, through a spokesperson, adds, "Randall is very proud of the work he and Bruce Willis have done over the last 15 years."
"In every single movie they have worked on together, Bruce enjoyed being on set, playing golf, going to dinners, and communing with the crew. If Bruce had not wanted to be on set, he would not have been there," the statement reads. "Willis is one of the greatest actors of his time and was sought after by multiple production companies until his recent retirement. Randall counts him among his closest friends."
Meanwhile, in a statement to ET, Martin Singer, Willis' attorney, praises his client for continuing to work amid his health struggles.
"My client continued working after his medical diagnosis because he wanted to work and was able to do so, just like many others diagnosed with aphasia who are capable of continuing to work," the statement reads. "Because Mr. Willis appeared in those films, they could get financed. That resulted in literally thousands of people having jobs, many during the COVID-19 pandemic."
One of the last films Willis made with Emmett/Furla Oasis was Wrong Place, on the set of which the actor was once again fed his lines through an earpiece, The Times alleges.
A source previously told ET something similar, stating, "It got to the point where on [Willis'] last several films, he was fitted with an earpiece, and someone had to read him his lines because he was unable to remember them."
That practice, Singer says, is similar to "Stevie Wonder having an assistant lead him on stage to perform, or Marlee Matlin’s reliance on a sign language interpreter. My client allegedly relying on Stephen Eads or others to provide certain assistance is in the same vein... It ought to be commended."