UPDATED: While Razzie founders have previously acknowledged that some “awards” were not merited in the face of extenuating circumstances, it is not clear if that grace will extend to the actor.
UPDATE: This article has been updated below.
Last week, Bruce Willis was (dis)honored with a Golden Raspberry Award for his performance in the space actioner “Cosmic Sin.” He didn’t have much competition: The Razzies this year crafted a special category just for the actor, “Worst Performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 Movie,” highlighting the eight schlock titles he starred in last year.
Just four days later, Willis’ family revealed that the actor would be “stepping away” from acting after he was diagnosed with aphasia, a disease caused by brain damage that impacts a person’s cognitive and communication abilities. The unfortunate timing led to renewed criticism of the Razzies, which for 42 years has highlighted cinematic misfires, under-achievements, and failures — and attracted criticism for its approach for nearly as long. Organizers told IndieWire they’re considering options for how to respond to Willis’ diagnosis.
Razzie organizers tried to get ahead of that with a tweet posted on Wednesday, expressing their condolences for Willis’ condition while also positing that “perhaps this explains why he wanted to go out with a bang in 2021.”
It didn’t go over well. Responders slammed the response as “backhanded.” Garry Whitta, the screenwriter and journalist who co-created the “Rogue One” story, offered a hearty “Seriously, go fuck yourselves.” Few offered solutions as to how they’d like to see the Razzies better handle such situations, aside from a renewed call to end the awards for good.
IndieWire reached out to the Razzies with questions about whether the organization plans to further address its Willis award, such as rescinding it. In a statement, co-founders John JB Wilson and Mo Murphy reiterated the tweet.
“We are truly sorry to hear about Willis’ diagnosis, of which we were unaware until the story broke earlier today. In Willis’ defense, perhaps his reps should not have let him do such a high volume of work in so short a time,” they wrote. “We offer our best wishes to Bruce and his family.”
UPDATE: In a later communication, Wilson told IndieWire, “We are still discussing how to handle the news about Willis’ diagnosis and will get back to you.” He clarified that Razzie organizers were unaware of Willis’ condition at the time of the nominations and the Saturday awards; they learned about his illness for the first time on Wednesday.
Critics have long blasted the Razzies as mean-spirited; its founders have pushed back on that saying it’s all in good fun, and they aim to highlight awful work from talent with otherwise good reputations.
The Razzies are truly sorry for #BruceWillis diagnosed condition. Perhaps this explains why he wanted to go out with a bang in 2021. Our best wishes to Bruce and family.
— The Razzie® Awards (@RazzieAwards) March 30, 2022
In an interview with IndieWire earlier this year, before Willis’ diagnosis was revealed, Wilson said of “earning” a Razzie, “It’s not a slap in the face, it’s a banana peel on the floor.”
“It’s meant to be funny, and yeah, it takes people down a peg, but another thing I say a lot is, ‘If you got $20 million to do a crappy movie and you got a Razzie, you’ve still got $20 million — can you deal with it?,” he continued.
There have, however, been instances in which Razzies brass have reflected on past nodes. Last month, Wilson and Murphy told Vulture that they stand by their nomination of “The Shining” in 1980, the Razzies’ inaugural year, though Murphy expressed regret about the nomination of star Shelly Duvall for Worst Actress.
“Knowing the backstory and the way that Stanley Kubrick kind of pulverized her, I would take that back,” Murphy said. “We’re willing to say, ‘Yeah, maybe that shouldn’t have been nominated.’ Everybody makes mistakes. That’s being human.”
Duvall, in recent years, has been public about what she says is abusive behavior from “The Shining” director Stanley Kubrick, and the emotional toll the film took on the actress is captured in Kubrik’s daughter Vivian’s documentary “Making ‘The Shining.’”
In a 2020 retrospective, Razzie organizers also referenced Kubrick’s reported behavior: “We suspect he badgered her into a cowering performance and and in retrospect, we would like to place the blame solely on him.”
Other previous Razzie winners have been bestowed with the Redeemer Award. Four-time Razzie winner Will Smith won a Redeemer this year for his work in “King Richard,” which won him Best Actor at the Oscars, and in 2019, Eddie Murphy — previously declared Worst Actor of the Decade by the Razzies in 2010 — won for “Dolemite Is My Name.”