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How Acting Helped Bruce Willis Overcome His Stutter

According to The Stuttering Foundation, over 70 million people around the world stutter. It might seem hard to believe given their flawless performances on screen and stage, but a number of A-list celebrities also suffer from this speech disorder.

Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, who was once honored by the American Institute for Stuttering, said "goodbye" to his stutter by consistently practicing Eminem's raps as a kid (via People). "Pulp Fiction" actor Samuel L. Jackson revealed on "The Howard Stern Show" that he once stuttered so badly that he stopped speaking entirely. Starlet Marilyn Monroe stuttered, and once could barely get through her lines while shooting a movie, much to the annoyance of the director, according to The Washington Post.

Even Bruce Willis, the powerhouse actor seen in "Die Hard," "The Sixth Sense," and other silver-screen hits, isn't immune to stuttering. Willis, a 2016 honoree of the American Institute for Stuttering, shared during a speech that he began stuttering around the age of 6. At the time, he said there was "no plan, no help, just flailing wildly for a really long time." Eventually, two professors in the speech therapy department at Montclair State University were able to help Willis significantly improve his stutter. But before this therapy, another activity made the stutter completely disappear when talking, much to Willis' surprise — acting.

Bruce Willis' stutter disappeared when he recited lines

During his 2016 speech at the American Institute for Stuttering's 10th-anniversary gala, Bruce Willis recalled the hardships of growing up with a stutter. He said, "It's easy to get frustrated with a child who stutters. But believe me, the one who stutters is much more frustrated."

However, there were some moments in Willis' adolescence when the stutter was gone, at least for a little while. As a teen, he took up acting at the local YMCA. Whenever he was on stage, immersed in a particular character and reciting his lines, the stutter was non-existent. "I did some theater somewhere, probably in high school. And when I memorized words, I didn't stutter, which was just miraculous," he said in an interview with GQ. "That was the beginning of the gradual dispelling of my stutter. I thought I was handicapped. I couldn't talk at all."

After recognizing the positive impact that acting had on his speech, a passion began that would lead to a storied career. But in March 2022, as reported by Variety, the actor's family announced that he'd be "stepping away" from the industry following a diagnosis of aphasia – a language disorder that's triggered by brain damage. Still, Willis serves as an inspiration for the next generation of those who stutter. He said during his AIS speech, "My advice to the young people in this room is to never let anyone make you feel like an outcast, because you will never be an outcast."