Heston discloses Alzheimer’s

Thesp: 'Feel no sympathy for me'

At a press confab Friday, Charlton Heston announced via a taped statement that he has symptoms of Alzheimer’s but urged friends and fans, “Please, feel no sympathy for me. I don’t.”

The statement was played at a Beverly Hills Hotel news conference, two days after the actor had recorded it.

On Friday, the actor’s longtime agent Jack Gilardi at ICM said he saw Heston two days earlier and that he was in fine spirits. Heston, he said, decided to make the announcement on tape rather than in person so he could be precise with his statement.

Gilardi said Heston, 77, will film a three-day cameo next month in Canada in director Elie Chouraqui’s “Citizen Buddy,” starring Stephen Rea. The indie pic concerns the death penalty.

Heston received the diagnosis several days ago, said his son Fraser Heston: “He’s coming through … with a lot of class, courage and conviction.”

Nearly three weeks ago, Heston spoke with Daily Variety‘s Army Archerd for a July 23 column about the new film “American Gun.” Archerd, who has known the actor for 40 years, said Heston sounded good and was as lucid as ever.

In the tape last week, Heston said, “For now, I’m not changing anything. I’ll insist on work when I can. The doctors will insist on rest when I must.”

He also noted, “I’ve lived my whole life on the stage and screen before you. For an actor, there is no greater loss than the loss of his audience.”

Heston is also president of the National Rifle Assn. The actor has asked to finish out his term, which ends in April.

“He’s a great American patriot,” said NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre. “He has every intention of remaining active. He’s certainly capable of providing inspirational and motivational leadership.”

Heston is a best actor Oscar winner for 1959’s “Ben-Hur,” and has starred in numerous films including “El Cid,” “The Ten Commandments” and “Planet of the Apes” (1968).

Alzheimer’s is the eighth leading cause of death in the U.S., killing about 45,000 people annually. Some 4 million Americans have the disorder. Sufferers eventually need 24-hour care and usually live eight to 10 years after diagnosis.

(Army Archerd contributed to this report.)

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