Will Ferrell has announced that he will not be playing Ronald Reagan in a planned comedy about the former president’s dementia, following an open letter written by Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis.
Davis wrote, ”Perhaps you have managed to retain some ignorance about Alzheimer’s and other versions of dementia. Perhaps if you knew more, you would not find the subject humourous… I watched as fear invaded my father’s eyes…this man who was never afraid of anything. I heard his voice tremble as he stood in the living room and said, ‘I don’t know where I am.’”
In the meantime, her brother Michael, also tweeted his own outrage over the project, which was also condemned by the Alzheimer’s Association, which issued the following statement: “Would filmmakers consider using a fatal form of cancer or other deadly disease for comedy? It is time to stop this forever.”
According to the Blacklist website, the premise for the film, which is reportedly being shopped to screenwriters, is the task of making Reagan believe he is playing the role of Commander and Chief of the United States as he slides into dementia during his 2nd term in office.
Representatives of the actor have since stated that the script was only one of many sent to Ferrell for consideration, and that he was “never officially attached to the project.”
Reagan, himself, admitted he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1994, although there are many who contend that the onset of the disease had occurred as much as 10-years before. In fact, former CBS White House correspondent Lesley Stahl recounted that, in her final meeting with the president in 1986, Reagan did not seem to know who she was, and that she came close to reporting that Reagan was senile. However, Reagan had regained his alertness by the end of the meeting. Meanwhile Reagan’s primary physician from 1984-1989, Dr. John E. Hutton, had insisted that the president “absolutely” did not “show any signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s at that time, despite reports which swirled through the media that Reagan often slept through cabinet meetings and had lapses in memory (issues denied by staff). Instead doctors stated that he only began exhibiting overt symptoms of the illness in late 1992 or 1993 several years after he had left office. A primary example often cited was when Reagan repeated a toast to Margaret Thatcher, with identical words and gestures, at his 82nd-birthday party on Feb. 6, 1993.
As the years went on, the disease slowly destroyed Reagan’s mental capacity.He was only able to recognize a few people, including his wife, Nancy, although he remained active, taking walks and playing golf until 1999.
Reagan died of pneumonia, complicated by Alzheimer’s disease, at his home in Bel Air, CA on June 5, 2004, at the age of 93.