In an open letter published on the Daily Beast, Patti Davis—daughter of Ronald Reagan—chided Will Ferrell over Reagan, an upcoming comedy he’s slated to produce and star in, about the former president’s struggles with Alzheimer’s.
According to Variety, Reagan—written by screenwriter Mike Rosolio and listed as one of the best unproduced scripts on this year’s Black List—“begins at the start of the then-president’s second term when he falls into dementia and an ambitious intern is tasked with convincing the commander-in-chief that he is an actor playing the president in a movie.”
Davis is not charmed by the idea.
“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,” she writes, continuing:
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.
Davis, who runs a support group for the caregivers and families of people with Alzheimer’s and dementia, then challenges Ferrell to visit a dementia care facility:
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.
A friendly reminder to Ferrell, Rosolio, and Davis (as well as filmmakers and critics at large): It’s definitely possible to create comedy that’s both compassionate and funny. Strive for both, favor the former.
UPDATE: Will Farrell is no longer attached to Reagan. A rep for Ferrell says, “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.”
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