Ferrell, famous for his comedic impersonation of former President George W. Bush, was reported by film trade publication Variety this week to be playing the president in “Reagan,” a comedy that follows a White House intern tasked with persuading a dementia-ridden Reagan that he is an actor in a movie playing president.
“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 “Alzheimers comedy” as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project,” United Talent Agency, which represents Ferrell, said in a statement on Friday.
Ferrell’s involvement was quickly criticized by Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis and son Michael Reagan, as well as the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s is a progressive brain disorder that destroys memory.
“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,” Davis wrote in an open letter to Ferrell.
“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,” she added.
On Friday, Michael Reagan responded to the news of Ferrell not pursuing the project on Twitter, saying “Thankyou for taking the right path.”
Ronald Reagan, president of the United States from 1981 to 1989, died in 2004 aged 93 after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s.
Ferrell, 48, is known for films such as “Anchorman” and “Talladega Nights,” and has played politicians such as George W. Bush, Ted Kennedy and Al Gore on NBC’s live sketch show “Saturday Night Live.”
“Reagan,” written by Mike Rosolio, was on Hollywood’s annual Black List, a selection of screenplays that more than 1,000 film industry professionals have picked as promising work but have not been made into feature films.
A representative for Rosolio did not immediately return Reuters’ request for comment.