Earlier this week, actor Will Ferrell came under fire for his planned role in a so-called “comedy” film that sought to poke fun at the very serious disease Ronald Reagan suffered from prior to his death. Following the outrage, Ferrell made a major announcement about the movie.
For those unaware, the movie Reagan was intended to portray the former president suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease while still in office, and critics from all walks of life blasted Ferrell for his part in it. Apparently, the outrage was enough to force his hand on the issue, and on Friday morning, he released a statement saying that he’s backing out of the role, Page Six reported.
A spokesperson for Ferrell said on Friday:
“The REAGAN script is one of a number of scripts that had been submitted to Will Ferrell which he had considered. While it is by no means a ‘Alzheimer’s comedy’ as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project.”
After hearing about the film, Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, penned a blistering letter to Ferrell in which she challenged him to actually explain how the horrible disease could possibly have any comedic value while explaining just how devastating it was to her and her entire family to watch her father suffer from it.
Below is what Davis wrote:
I saw the news bulletin — as did everyone — that you intend to portray my father in the throes of Alzheimer’s for a comedy that you are also producing. 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 humorous.
Alzheimer’s doesn’t care if you are President of the United States or a dockworker. It steals what is most precious to a human being — memories, connections, the familiar landmarks of a lifetime that we all come to rely on to hold our place secure in this world and keep us linked to those we have come to know and love. 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.” I watched helplessly as he reached for memories, for words, that were suddenly out of reach and moving farther away. For ten long years he drifted — past the memories that marked his life, past all that was familiar…and mercifully, finally past the fear.
There was laughter in those years, but there was never humor.
Alzheimer’s is the ultimate pirate, pillaging a person’s life and leaving an empty landscape behind. It sweeps up entire families, forcing everyone to claw their way through overwhelming grief, confusion, helplessness, and anger. Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have — I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.
Twice a week I run a support group called Beyond Alzheimer’s for caregivers and family members of those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. I look into haunted eyes that remind me of my own when my father was ill. I listen to stories of helplessness and loss and am continually moved by the bravery of those who wake up every morning not knowing who their loved one will be that day, or what will be lost. The only certainty with Alzheimer’s is that more will be lost and the disease will always win in the end.
Perhaps you would like to explain to them how this disease is suitable material for a comedy.
Ferrell has yet to publicly comment on the now-canceled film, which he was set to produce. However, upon hearing about its cancelation, Davis told Page Six, “I am so relieved that Will has decided against this film,” adding, “I can’t imagine that anybody else would sign onto it.”
Davis’s brother, Michael Reagan, also praised Ferrell for taking the “right path” over the movie.