Boy, that escalated quickly. It was announced yesterday that Will Ferrell will be playing former United States president Ronald Reagan in the Mike Rosolio–penned comedy Reagan, which, according to Variety, was also one of the most popular films on the Black List — an annual catalogue of Hollywood’s top unproduced scripts. Following a second-term Reagan as he slides into dementia, the film tells the story of an intern tasked with convincing Reagan that he’s an actor playing a president in a movie, as opposed to the nation’s actual commander-in-chief. However, not everyone’s laughing at the narrative. In a letter published today in the Daily Beast directed at “Mr. Ferrell,” Reagan’s daughter, Patti Davis, expounded on how her father’s Alzheimer’s shouldn’t be a source of comedic inspiration.
“Perhaps you have managed to retain some ignorance about Alzheimer’s and other versions of dementia,” she writes. “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.”
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 … I look into haunted eyes that remind me of my own when my father was ill. I listen to stories of helplessness and loss and am continually moved by the bravery of those who wake up every morning not knowing who their loved one will be that day, or what will be lost. The only certainty with Alzheimer’s is that more will be lost and the disease will always win in the end. Perhaps you would like to explain to them how this disease is suitable material for a comedy.
Reagan’s son, Michael Reagan, took to Twitter on Wednesday to also vent his frustrations:
Ferrell has yet to respond.