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Will Ferrell Abandons Reagan Comedy After Backlash

Movie about former president and Alzheimer's hits nerve with family

President Ronald Reagan talks with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona at the White House in 1987. (Roll Call file photo)
President Ronald Reagan talks with Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona at the White House in 1987. (Roll Call file photo)

Will Ferrell will, in the end, not portray Ronald Reagan in a comedy about the former president’s final days in office, dropping the idea amid a storm of outrage over the film’s premise seen as making light of Alzheimer’s.  

According to multiple outlets and originally reported by the New York Post’s Page Six, Ferrell saw the script and considered taking it on. But he changed his mind, a representative for the star told the newspaper.  

“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,” the Post quoted the representative as saying.  

Variety reports on Ferrell and Reagan Ferrell, of course, is an alum of “Saturday Night Live” and famous for his depictions of former President George W. Bush .  SNL made fun of Reagan during his years in office as well. One memorable sketch satirized his intellectual fitness for the job of president, political criticism at the time drawn from his years in Hollywood as mainly a B-movie actor.  

But since leaving office, the old jokes and satiric portrayals of Reagan as sometimes befuddled or forgetful have taken on a different meaning.  

The upcoming comedy would reportedly portray Reagan in his second term as someone becoming more confused. In it, an intern is assigned to convince him that he is an actor portraying the president in a movie.  

There are now questions about when Reagan developed Alzheimer’s. Reagan’s son, Ron, said he saw signs that concerned him while his father was president. But Michael Reagan and doctors dismissed the claim.  

But news of the film was met with outrage by many in Reagan world, chief among them his children.

Similarly, Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, who was often critical of her parents while alive, posted  a letter to Ferrell on her website asking him not to poke fun at her father at his most vulnerable time.  

“I watched as fear invaded my father’s eyes — this man who was never afraid of anything,” she wrote. “I heard his voice tremble as he stood in the living room and said, ‘I don’t know where I am.'”  

Contact Garcia at EricGarcia@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter @EricMGarcia

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