Following criticism from the former American president’s family, actor Will Ferrell will no longer participate in a comedy about Ronald Regan’s dementia.
United Talent Agency, which represents Ferrell, said that the comedy personality will no longer pursue the role reported this week in film trade publication Variety. The said role is part of the comedy screenplay Reagan, which is about a White House intern tasked to persuade a dementia-stricken Reagan that he’s a movie actor playing president.
“While it is by no means an ‘Alzheimer’s comedy’ as has been suggested, Ferrell is not pursuing this project,” confirmed the agency in its statement.
Shortly after the revelation of the project, Reagan’s children Patti Davis and Michael Reagan, alongside the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and the Alzheimer’s Foundation, criticized Ferrell’s potential involvement. Davis wrote Ferrell an open letter on April 28 expressing her concern.
“I watched helplessly as [my father] reached for memories, for words, that were suddenly out of reach and moving farther away,” wrote Davis. “For ten long years he drifted — past the memories that marked his life, past all that was familiar… and mercifully, finally past the fear.”
Calling Alzheimer’s the “ultimate pirate” that pillages lives and affects entire families, Davis urged Ferrell to explain how the disease “is suitable material for a comedy” and to visit some dementia facilities to see the condition first-hand.
The Alzheimer’s Association called the planned depiction “offensive,” citing (PDF) that more than 5 million Americans live with the condition and cared for by 15 million family caregivers every single day.
Pre-clinical Alzheimer’s reveals variations in the brain linked to its development — changes that can be identified through biomarkers found in the brain and spinal fluids. These biomarkers figure in the buildup of brain plaques, a hallmark of this degenerative disorder.
Upon hearing that Ferrell will no longer participate in the project, Michael Reagan tweeted: “Thank you for taking the right path.”
Ronald Reagan, U.S. president from 1981 to 1989, died at age 93 in 2004 after a protracted battle with Alzheimer’s. Ferrell, on the other hand, has played a number of politician roles such as George W. Bush, Al Gore and Ted Kennedy on Saturday Night Live.
Reagan is penned by Mike Rosolio as part of the annual Hollywood Black List, which are screenplays deemed promising yet have not made it as full feature films.
Photo: Arturo Pardavila III | Flickr