Patti Davis, Michael Reagan outraged over Will Ferrell "dementia comedy" targeting father; Update: Ferrell withdraws

Update, 12:47 pm ET: Emily Smith at the New York Post’s Page Six reports that Ferrell has pulled out of the project:

Will Ferrell has backed out of a comedy about Ronald Reagan’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease following outrage from the former president’s family.

The 48-year-old comic confirmed Friday that while he had seen the script and considered signing on to star 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 a ‘Alzheimer’s comedy’ as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project.”


Good. And maybe everyone else involved with this execrable concept can reconsider their connection to the project as well.

Original post follows:

Having watched family members suffer from dementia, one can only imagine that Will Ferrell’s new project, described as a “dementia comedy,” will be … about as funny as any other Will Ferrell appearance on the silver screen. Because the butt of the joke in this case will be Ronald Reagan, however, Hollywood has convinced itself that making fun of a president who died of Alzheimer’s is a “smarter political comedy.” Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis and son Michael Reagan have begged to differ — and are not remaining quiet about it, either:

Touted as a so-called “dementia comedy,” it tells the story of an ambitious intern who is tasked with convincing Ronald Reagan that he is an actor playing the president in a movie, after he falls into dementia at the start of his second term. Last month, there was a star-studded reading of the screenplay, featuring Nathan Fillion, John Cho and James Brolin as Reagan.

“This movie, from everything we’ve seen is, a comedic dramedy. It’s not a typical, fall-down Will Ferrell comedy,” said Matthew Belloni of the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s a little more elevated — it’s a smarter political comedy and Will Ferrell is doing a Reagan impression, but it’s not a Saturday Night Live impression.”


Yesterday, Patti Davis penned an open letter to Will Ferrell appealing to his humanity:

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.


Michael Reagan put it more succinctly:

First off, the premise of the film is based on a lie. Reagan’s children have disputed among themselves whether Reagan showed early signs of his Alzheimer’s while in office, but no one suspected he had a real issue until 1989 at the earliest, Ron Reagan wrote in his book about his father in 2011. And that suspicion didn’t arise from behavior, but from a medical assessment of Reagan’s brain after surgery to relieve head trauma in 1989:

Ron Reagan writes that there is “no evidence that my father (or anyone else) was aware of his medical condition while he was in office.”

“Had the diagnosis been made in, say, 1987, would he have stepped down? I believe he would have.”

In 1994, President Reagan revealed to the nation that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. But earlier, in 1989, doctors operating on Reagan expressed their belief he was suffering from the degenerative disease.

Ron Reagan writes that in July 1989, his father was thrown off a horse while visiting friends in Mexico. He received medical attention at a hospital in San Diego. When surgeons opened the president’s skull to relieve pressure they “detected what they took to be probable signs of Alzheimer’s disease.” But no formal diagnosis was given.


No one connected to Reagan has ever shown any evidence of impairment while in office, or even immediately after leaving it. The idea that Reagan was senile in his second term is belied by the accomplishments of that term, setting up the environment in which the Soviet Union would collapse and eastern Europe would be freed from its domination at the conclusion of the Cold War. Hollywood and the Left, however, want to strip Reagan of his accomplishments, and it’s very clear that this “dementia comedy” is more propaganda for that purpose. It’s the “amiable dunce” meme from the 1980s, rewrapped for a new generation of dolts.

Having watched my mother-in-law and other family members disappear into dementia, it’s difficult to grasp any other basis for a “dementia comedy” except hostility and malice. I’m not interested in spending a couple of hours watching that kind of hatred unfold on the screen, and find it difficult to believe that anyone else will, either, especially with Ferrell as the tentpole of the film. Most decent people have no desire to poke fun at the pain of others, especially when it involves smearing the dead for political purposes.

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