Exclusive: White Elephant’s Vadhir Derbez Praises Bruce Willis in Light of Aphasia Diagnosis

The recently released White Elephant will be one of Bruce Willis’ final films. Earlier this year, Willis’ daughter Rumer announced that the actor would be stepping away from acting after being diagnosed with aphasia, a neurological disorder caused by damage to the brain responsible for language, which ultimately affects one’s ability to communicate. In the months since the revelation of Willis’ condition, former directors and co-stars like Looper actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt have come forward with nothing but praise for Willis. Public support for the actor is sure to continue as Willis’ last handful of movies release throughout the rest of the year. Indeed, his White Elephant co-star Vadhir Derbez offered his own words on Willis in our exclusive interview, saying “it was an honor in general, just being in one of his last films and having him on [and sharing] the set with him.”


Directed and co-written by Jesse V. Johnson, White Elephant tells the story of mob enforcer Gabriel Tancredi (Michael Rooker) who, undergoing a sort of moral crisis, switches sides when his long-time friend and crime boss Arnold Soloman (Willis) orders a hit on two police officers (one of whom is played by Olga Kurylenko) who witness an assassination committed by gang member Carlo Garcia (Derbez). White Elephant has action and heart, and marks a reunion between Willis and Johnson, who had worked together decades prior when Johnson was still a stunt coordinator.

Derbez Says Willis is a ‘Legend’

According to Variety, Willis’ more recent directors were all either concerned with or aware of certain degrees of the actor’s condition. In fact, per Los Angeles Times, Johnson met with Willis prior to the start of production in April 2021 and said, “[It] was clear that he was not the Bruce I remembered.” This resulted in a shift in production, initially decreasing Willis’ filming schedule to two eight-hour days a week before ultimately whittling it further to four-hour days. Additionally, Johnson was offered a chance to direct two more movies with Willis, which he turned down out of respect for his colleague and friend. Derbez, who shared a couple of scenes with Willis in White Elephant, echoed Johnson’s concern. “We would start seeing [his symptoms] come out, and you just have to be understanding, you have to be a good partner there, and be patient.”

Of course, Derbez only had the best things to say about Willis. Though they don’t share many scenes together, the time they do have together in White Elephant prove pivotal, highly emotional points for each of their characters. “He did so well. He did amazing. He’s such a legend. I think everything he does — and [has] done — [is] so good, so just seeing him act, honestly, it was great,” he says. “I’m just happy that people are going to be able to enjoy another film with him.”

White Elephant is now available in select theaters and streaming on AMC+.