Will Ferrell hears critics, abandons Ronald Reagan ‘dementia comedy’

The comedian won’t pursue the proposed flick that sparked outrage from the late president’s children. They urged the ‘SNL’ alumnus to learn more about the cognitive condition instead of mocking it.

The many voices of condemnation seem to have prevailed.

Comedian Will Ferrell’s plan to produce and star in a movie about President Ronald Reagan and the onset of his Alzheimer’s disease drew ire—and obscenities—from many on social media. By Friday morning, posts from @sethrogan, actor Joe Piscopo and politicians all condemned Ferrell, urging him to “not go there.”

By early afternoon, a response finally came from Ferrell’s camp, and The New York Post reported it on Page Six:

The 48-year-old comic confirmed Friday that while he had seen the script and considered signing on to star in and produce “Reagan,” he was no longer going ahead with the project. A spokesperson for Will said, “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.”

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Public figures backed Reagan’s children, Michael and Patti Davis. It was Davis’ open letter to the actor on Thursday that led to outrage about what Hollywood Reporter has described as a “comedic dramedy.”

Davis’ letter was published in The Daily Beast; her disgust was evident:

You intend to portray my father in the throes of Alzheimer’s for a comedy… I watched as fear invaded my father’s eyes – this man who was never afraid of anything… 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.

#AlzheimersIsntFunny is one of the hashtags that popped up Friday morning. Michael Reagan posted on Twitter:

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Other people whose families have been affected by the degenerative condition expressed outrage, including Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, who posted on Facebook:

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On Friday morning, Fox Business News reported:

[Ferrell] has played a president before with his famous impressions on Saturday Night Live of President George W. Bush—but is this crossing the line? The Reagan family thinks so, and so does actor Joe Piscopo, who says while he’s a fan of Will Ferrell, this is an “initiative to take the great Ronald Reagan down. Will Ferrell is one of the great humans on the planet, one of the most talented humans on the planet, but I wish they wouldn’t go there,” he said during an interview with the FOX Business Network’s Neil Cavuto. The movie will focus on Reagan’s second term as president and feeds off suspicion that he has Alzheimer’s.

Families bear the brunt

A caregiver’s forum on Alzheimers.org serves as a stark reminder of the constant care that dementia patients need and the heartbreak it causes families and friends. The organization’s website says one in three seniors dies from Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.

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Before Ferrell’s camp responded, the media noted this is not the “PR buzz” that Hollywood looks for.

Matthew Belloni of the Hollywood Reporter said:

I think there’s a strong chance this film won’t get made now. The outrage and the president’s children coming out and saying that they don’t want it to be made, I think that could have a very detrimental effect on this movie getting the greenlight.

According to The Wrap, a private reading was held for the script with Lena Dunham and Josh Brolin, and it was well-received.

What do you think of the proposed movie and the backlash to it, readers? Please let us know in the comments section.

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