NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Will Ferrell has decided to back out of his role as Ronald Reagan in a new film after the former president’s family and other critics slammed the movie for being in poor taste.
“Reagan,” written by Mike Rosolio, is a comedy about a White House intern who must convince a dementia-stricken Reagan that he’s an actor playing the president in a movie, CBS2 reported.
As CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported, the outrage was front page news.
Ferrell will not be going forward with the project, which he was also slated to produce.
“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 an ‘Alzheimer’s comedy,’ as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project,” a spokesperson said to CBS News.
More: Read The Open Letter
The announcement comes after Patti Davis, Reagan’s daughter, published an open letter to Ferrell slamming the concept of the film, while also opening up about her father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s. Reagan died from complications of the disease in 2004.
“Perhaps you have managed to retain some ignorance about Alzheimer’s and other versions of dementia,” Davis wrote. “Perhaps if you knew more, you would not find the subject humorous.”
Davis continued, providing anecdotes of her life with her father though what she describes as a 10-year battle with the disease.
“I watched as fear invaded my father’s eyes — this man who was never afraid of anything,” Davis wrote. “I heard his voice tremble as he stood in the living room and said, “I don’t know where I am.””
“Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities,” Davis wrote later. “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.”
Michael Reagan, Davis’ brother, also criticized the film on Twitter earlier this week.
“Alzheimer’s is not a comedy to the 5 million people who are suffering…” Reagan tweeted. “It first robs you of your mind and then it kills you.”
Jed Levine of the Alzheimer’s support group ‘Caringkind’ said Ferrell was wise to drop the comedy.
“Alzheimer’s disease is never a laughing matter for the millions of families that are caring fro a relative with the disease,” he said.
But he said that doesn’t mean the topic is off limits for Hollywood.
“If any film is done about a person with dementia, it’s done with a great sensitivity, great respect,” Levine said.
The script for the movie has been kicking around Hollywood.
Actor James Brolin, Nathan Fillion, and Dennis Haysbert all participated in a public reading of the script last month.
Screenwriter Mike Rosolio hinted in a podcast that his own family has been affected by Alzheimer’s.
“I was really, really fascinated by all of the dementia stuff with Ronald Reagan. It’s a very important subject to me personally, to my family personally,” he said.
Reagan starred in 53 films during his acting career.
It’s not clear if this comedy about his disease and his presidency will ever make it to the big screen.
A longtime Reagan aide said any movie portraying him in the grip of Alzheimer’s while president would “rewrite history.”