New Jersey's Bruce Willis is stepping away from acting after a diagnosis of aphasia, a condition that causes loss of the ability to understand or express speech, his family announced Wednesday.

In a statement posted on Willis' Instagram page, the 67-year-old actor's family said Willis was recently diagnosed with aphasia and that it is impacting his cognitive abilities.

“As a result of this and with much consideration, Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him," read the statement signed by Willis' wife, Emma Heming Willis, his ex-wife Demi Moore, and his five children, Rumer, Scout, Tallulah, Mabel and Evelyn.

“We are moving through this as a strong family unit, and wanted to bring his fans in because we know how much he means to you, as you do to him,” they said. “As Bruce always says, ‘Live it up’ and together we plan to do just that.”

Aphasia typically occurs after a stroke or head injury, but can also develop gradually due to a slow-growing brain tumor or a disease that causes degenerative damage. It is treated primarily with speech therapy and learning non-verbal means of communication.

Bruce Willis in a DieHard battery commercial
Bruce Willis in a DieHard battery commercial (Business Wire)
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New Jersey raised, born in Germany

Willis was born in West Germany while his father was stationed with the U.S. military. His family settled in Carneys Point after his father's discharge.

Willis attended Penns Grove High School and graduated in 1973. He was a member of the drama club which helped control his stutter and was also elected student council president.

After high school, he as worked as a part-time security guard at the Salem Nuclear power plant. He also went to Montclair State briefly before moving to Manhattan and pursuing an acting career.

He was elected to the New Jersey Hall of Fame in 2011 along with John Travolta, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Bennett and Queen Latifah.

Bruce Willis at the Continental Airlines Arena during a Nets playoff game in 2007 (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Bruce Willis at the Continental Airlines Arena during a Nets playoff game in 2007 (Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
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Brief interest in a New Jersey shopping complex

Willis' company Screwball Inc was the "mystery" buyer who paid $1 million for 11 acres of property along the Delaware River in 1995, according to a New York Times report. He had hoped to build a shopping and entertainment complex at a cost of $50 million.

According to the Times, Willis even met with then Gov. Christine Todd Whitman who pledged her administration's support for the project.

Hopes were high that the project would act as an economic stimulus for the area but Willis lost interest and sold the property.  Whitman said she was disappointed at the project's demise.

The news about Willis, one of Hollywood's most beloved actors, immediately spread online as fans reacted. His four-decade career has amassed more than $5 billion in box office worldwide,

Willis had been working steadily and frequently. Renowned for films like “Die Hard," “Pulp Fiction" and “The Sixth Sense,” Willis has in recent years churned out straight-to-video thrillers. Last year, he starred in a staggering eight films. Most came and went quietly, including titles like “Cosmic Sin,” “Out of Death” and “Deadlock.”

Most recently, Willis starred in last month's “Gasoline Alley" and “A Day to Die,” released in early March. Willis has already shot at least six more films due out in 2022 and 2023, including “Die Like Lovers," “Corrective Measures" and “The Wrong Place.”

(Includes material copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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