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Will Ferrell Exits Ronald Reagan Alzheimer’s Movie Amid Backlash

Will Ferrell attends the 'Zoolander No.2' premiere at the Capitol Cinema on February 1, 2016 in Madrid, Spain.
Will Ferrell attends the 'Zoolander No. 2' premiere at the Capitol Cinema on Feb. 1, 2016, in Madrid.

Feeling the heat? Will Ferrell has dropped out of Reagan, a comedy based on the late former president Ronald Reagan’s debilitating battle with Alzheimer’s disease, amid major backlash.

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“The ‘Reagan’ script is one of a number of scripts that had been submitted to Will Ferrell which he had considered,” a rep for the actor, 48, told Page Six in a statement on Friday, April 29. “While it is by no means an ‘Alzheimer’s comedy’ as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project.”

According to Variety, the film’s Mike Rosolio-penned screenplay “opens at the start of the then-president’s second term, when he falls into dementia. An ambitious intern is tasked with convincing the commander-in-chief that he is an actor playing the president in a movie.”

The Alzheimer’s Association released a statement on Friday criticizing Reagan for trivializing a life-threatening and often heartbreaking illness.

“The Alzheimer’s Association is appalled that anyone would plan to develop a film that satirizes an individual living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia,” the organization said. “Would filmmakers consider using a fatal form of cancer or another deadly disease for comedy? It’s time to stop this forever.”

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Ronald Reagan poses for a portrait in 1980 in Los Angeles, California.
Ronald Reagan poses for a portrait in 1980 in Los Angeles.

The movie’s plotline incensed members of the deceased Reagan’s family.

“There’s nothing funny about Alzheimer’s. It is terrifying for the families of those who suffer from it. They live with the fear [of] what will change next, they have to live with this terror and grief every day,” Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis told Page Six. “This movie is cruel, not just to my father, but to the millions of people who have the disease, and the millions more who care for them and watch them suffer every day.”

Davis’ brother Michael Reagan also voiced his disappointment in Reagan’s insensitive script.

“#Alzheimers is not a comedy to the 5 million people who are suffering with the disease, it first robs you of your mind and then it kills you,” he wrote on Twitter. Reagan died from the disease in 2003 at age 94.

Since hearing about Ferrell’s decision to exit the project, both Davis, 63, and Michael, 71, have expressed relief.

“I am so relieved that Will has decided against this film. I can’t imagine that anybody else would sign onto it,” Davis told Page Six on Friday, while Michael tweeted: “Thank you for taking the right path.”

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Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, was also the father of son Ron and daughters Maureen and Christine, who he shared with wife Nancy Reagan. The former first lady recently died of congestive heart failure on March 6 at age 94. 

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