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*Editor’s note: This post has been updated to report Ferrell’s response to the backlash.
The family of Ronald Reagan fired back at actor Will Ferrell for reportedly deciding to portray the former president as an Alzheimer’s patient.
But now it seems, the Saturday Night Live alum has backed out of the project.
“The REAGAN script is one of a number of scripts that had been submitted to Will Ferrell which he had considered,” a spokesman for the actor told The New York Post. “While it is by no means a ‘Alzheimer’s comedy’ as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project.”
The movie plot was described as an intern tasked with convincing Reagan he’s an actor playing the role of president at the beginning of his second term, years before he actually contracted the disease.
Reagan’s family, and many others, didn’t find the humor in it at all.
The former president’s daughter, Patti Davis, wrote a heartbreaking open letter to Ferrell on The Daily Beast expressing her contempt.
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.
The former president’s son, Michael Reagan, also lashed out at the actor.
What an Outrag….Alzheimers is not joke…It kills..You should be ashamed all of you. https://t.co/GNzqR5vjrX
— Michael Reagan (@ReaganWorld) April 27, 2016
Alheimers is not a comedy it robs you then it kills you @THR
— Michael Reagan (@ReaganWorld) April 28, 2016
The Young Americans Foundation, who run the Reagan Ranch, also wrote a piece slamming the film.
“Rather than portraying President Reagan as the leader who defeated the Soviet Union and saved our economy from the brink of collapse, the script depicts the 40th president as nothing more than a clown. Furthermore, it pokes fun at the horrors of Alzheimer’s Disease, an affliction that has affected millions throughout the world,” YAF program officer Amy Lutz wrote.
Social media joined in with scorn for the movie and the actor.
— Curtis Loftis (@TreasurerLoftis) April 29, 2016
— LaDonna Pauls (@LaDonnaPauls) April 29, 2016
— Assemblyman Ed Ra (@EdwardRa19) April 29, 2016
— Scotty Kowall (@ScottyKowall) April 29, 2016
— Pamela Jane (@pjul1984) April 29, 2016
I love Will Ferrell and I think mostly everything is subject to mockery, but joking about Alzheimer’s is too far #ReaganMovie
— Gabe Stoutimore (@GabeStoutimore) April 28, 2016
Will Ferrell, you garbage. What’s next — a comedy about kids with cancer, JFK’s assassination, or Budd Dwyer’s suicide? #ReaganMovie
— Joe Cassara (@JoeCassara) April 28, 2016
— John Schellenberg (@JohnSchelly) April 28, 2016
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