Will Ferrell Pulls Out of Ronald Reagan Movie After Outcry From Family

Will Ferrell Leaving Ronald Reagan Film
Rex Shutterstock

Just two days after Variety first reported that Will Ferrell would play Ronald Reagan in a new comedy, the actor has dropped out of the project following public outcry.

Ferrell was also attached to produce “Reagan” via his Gary Sanchez Productions. The former president’s supporters and his children, Patti Davis and Michael Reagan, voiced their criticism following the announcement that the film would focus on Reagan succumbing to Alzheimer’s-induced dementia while in office.

The Alzheimer’s Association released a statement on Friday, slamming a movie that would make light of the serious illness.

“The Alzheimer’s Association is appalled that anyone would plan to develop a film that satirizes an individual living with Alzheimer’s or another dementia,” the Chicago-based organization said in a statement. “Would filmmakers consider using a fatal form of cancer or another deadly disease for comedy? It’s time to stop this forever.”

Penned by Mike Rosolio, the screenplay opens at the start of the then-president’s second term when he falls into dementia. An ambitious intern is tasked with convincing the commander-in-chief that he is an actor playing the president in a movie.

The script had already drawn attention from the industry after it was featured on the Blacklist and given a live read last month by Lena Dunham, John Cho and James Brolin (as Reagan).

The outcry was instant with Michael Reagan tweeting tha those involved “should be ashamed” and that “Alzheimer is not a comedy.” Alzheimer’s “first robs you of your mind and then it kills you,” he wrote.

Davis slammed the film in an open letter published on the Daily Beast.

“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 wrote. “There was laughter in those years, but there was never humor.”

The Reagan foundation also issued a statement asserting their displeasure with Ferrell’s involvement.

The film did not yet have a studio or financier involved and it is unknown now whether the project will move forward.

PageSix first reported Ferrell’s departure from the pic.

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  1. Paul says:

    How much funnier would an edgy sex comedy about Hillary cleaning up after all of Bill’s ugly women would have been. Its relevant as they are in the spotlight now and promoting it would have been easy. Instead lets make Alzheimer jokes. Seems like a bad business decision. The Regans aren’t that relevant in todays news cycles. But a movie maker taking on the Clintons would have had free promotion daily.

  2. Mary says:

    Make no mistake. Nothing should be off limits for comedy. That’s our first amendment right. It would just be in poor taste to make fun of his illness if that’s what they were planning. And that’s because it’s not funny. I lived with a father who had it and we had to laugh all the time or we would go crazy. Tricky subject but I think it can be done.

    • anthony king says:

      Absolutely apalling and terrible. A mockery of the illness as well a former president of the United States of America. A total lack of respect even for those who have lost loved ones behind this debilitating disease. A shame.

  3. Billy says:

    Disgusting ! He owes all Alzeimers patients and their families an apology !! Is he nuts ? His weak BS
    ” I didn’t mean it ” is true BS !! Hollywood needs help ! This is one of , if not , the worse disease . Even if you hate Reagan ,,, any ” fun ” presentation is true evil …

  4. Randy says:

    Look, we know that, for many, Reagan was the great communicator, and a highly beloved president. However, for many others, he was, at best, befuddled (witness the many SNL routines, and that great Brit series “Spitting Image”), and, at worst, at least, seriously misguided, seeing the world through a distressingly narrow lens. We have him to thank for Iran Contra and Ollie North, for the tragic delay in addressing the AIDS epidemic, and, most lastingly, the promotion of supply side economics, which has indisputably led to the horrifying economic disparity the country faces today. I have not read the screenplay, but I imagine it’s not really a dig on Alzheimer’s, but on a president whom his critics regarded from the beginning as an actor playing the part of President. Still, in today’s environment, with Reagan installed (even more than Lincoln) as the great god of the GOP, it’s unlikely that any film about the 40th president that’s not an unabashed hagiography will ever see the light of the silver screen.

  5. I get it that some folks will be offended, but if the film were not about Reagan but instead some regular guy that is similarly afflicted some, not me, would go to the movie and laugh. Protecting his legacy is in that light dishonest. I certainly have doubts about doing a comedy about being sick, but a film that would correctly depict the Reagan years as they really affected our country is in order. The Trickle Down Monetary System employed during his watch that has been called a mistake by the guy that created it, is a main cause for the wealth disparity we are having to deal with.

    It does seem he may have been a nice guy I would have a beer with, but a lousy president. Actually, I saw him as a puppet who’s celebrity was used against us.

    • EricJ says:

      Comics say that every public figure paints a target on himself every time he opens his mouth, but it’s over what he CHOOSES to do in trying to look important–No one asked him to open it, after all.

      Back when we never suspected there was really anything wrong, I remember laughing myself out of breath at an 80’s HBO “Not Necessarily the News” sketch that took Reagan TV-address clips and seamlessly edited them into non-sequitir incoherence. (“Maybe it would have been cheaper to buy them all plane tickets…I’ll take personal responsibility for that.”) The point of the joke was to satirically poke back at how overbearingly condescending the Grating Communicator could come off every time he tried to be Folksy, but if two minutes of Reagan making no sense had been a real joke about Alzheimer’s, bang would go the humor.
      We joked about Reagan turning senile until he -did-, and then it obviously couldn’t be a joke anymore.

    • D says:

      Yeah, things were sooooo amazing in the mid to late 70s w Carter. Go read. They invented new economic terms under his to describe our economic condition. The Russians walked out of every meeting. Cities were going bankrupt under the tail end of “great society” policy. Libs forget all that!
      And if it weren’t Reagan I wouldn’t have gone and laughed. The one trick pony joke is so repetitive in this script.

  6. Pookie says:

    Remember when Will Ferell was genuinely funny and made movies people actually ENJOYED…… yeah…me neither.

  7. Cheryl Dashnaw says:

    What kind of jerk would even think about writing something like this?

  8. MamaCat says:

    Many of you, like me, have experienced the pain of a parent diagnosed and living with Alzheimer’s. When I heard that Will Ferrell was going to star in this movie, I vowed to never watch a Will Ferrell movie again. The premise of this movie is simply disgusting! Mike Rosolio wrote the script and should be ashamed of himself for letting his politics override common decency. Alzheimer’s is always a story of courage, strength, sorrow, and loss. Hollow-wood never ceases to disappoint by placing political jabs above humanity.

  9. Debra says:

    I couldn’t believe anyone would consider this. Regardless of how “warm and compassionate” a script might be interpreted, it’s still dealing with something that simply is not funny. That an intern would be the man behind the chair, so to speak, convincing the president –a leader who is responsible, in large part, for the world moving forward, not to mention our own immediate piece of it–that he’s playing such in a movie seems more ludicrous than anything else. If this had been posited around another public figure–MLK, a religious figure, Abraham Lincoln, whatever respected figure you choose–do you think anyone would have found those amusing? Sometimes what passes for comedy is simply picking on the vulnerable because some hoo-ha in the front row yuks over it. Family members of my own suffered from dementia. It was unbelievable to see such a heart-wrenching decline. I’m sorry, but everything isn’t fodder for today’s often empty and cruel idea of humor. Compassion, respect and decency still have a place, believe it or not.

  10. azalea22 says:

    Will Ferrell (or anyone else with an ounce of class and compassion), should have refused to have anything to do with this movie from the beginning. Instead, Ferrell no doubt thought that it would be a hoot to make this movie because it would poke fun at and humiliate President Reagan, whom I’m sure he despises. Ferrell was not only going to be starring in this pathetic production, but was also going to be producing it. The ONLY reason that he’s backed out of this project is because of the widespread disgust and condemnation that it, and he, have received since word of this was announced.

    Mocking anyone with Alzheimer’s, regardless of who they are, is NOT funny and is absolutely despicable. A project like this is reprehensible and anyone involved with it, now or in the future, should be ashamed of themselves.

    • I totally agree. And I know that Will realized the nature of the project, too. I have a feeling that someone may be fired at his company or something may change with his overall team. He is a sensitive guy and clearly had not read it. It happens all the time. I think it’s good that it has brought even more attention to this disease.

      I have the disorder of Parkinson’s and and am a producer. I am so against making light of chronic diseases. Headed to the Capitol this week.

      • azalea22 says:

        I’m sorry to hear of your struggle with Parkinson’s. Wishing you the very best as you continue to battle this disease. I applaud your going to Washington. Good luck with that and keep fighting the good fight. Take care and God bless-

  11. Good taste alone should have been enough to make Ferrell not want to do this film. I hope that no person ever is so thoughtless to make a film about anyone with Alzheimer’s as a comedy film. but we all know that are alot of thoughtless stupid people out there.

  12. RTF says:

    Ah, too bad. Will as senile Ronnie would have been great. Guess I’ll just have to watch his HBO Special as GW Bush a few times to make up for it.

    • EricJ says:

      Will as GW (apart from being visually dead-on) is fair game, since GW’s dimness was natural, and not caused by any otherwise tragic debilitating medical circumstance. If Chevy Chase trips as Gerald Ford, it’s funny; if he falls over as FDR trying to walk, it isn’t.
      You can attack the person if he happens to deserve it, but cheering misfortune is a bit of license no amount of satirical passive-hostility can allow the comic.

      • Mel says:

        So who gets to decide if he “deserves” it? Ted Kennedy was responsible for the death of a young woman, a death which he never had to pay the price for it.

        You’re a hateful person. And you’re too dim to realize it.

      • Jake says:

        Shame we can’t actually see the movie to judge it.

  13. Jill says:

    I wonder if the offended parties even read the script. As a person who has watched two grandparents die of Alzheimer’s I’d would argue that Rosolio’s screenplay is not offensive and in fact filled with great warmth and humanity.

  14. Jake says:

    Damn, I was looking forward to this.

    • Horrible comparison. It was not based on a real person and it was a dramatic film.

      Step away from the bong. Wow. Epic fail.

      • It was a dramatic film with a lot of comedy (even broad comedy). The scene I mentioned got a huge laugh from the audience. I was not making a comparison, but rather answering a specific question that was posed in the article. Filmmakers have used anything and everything as fodder for comedy when they’ve been allowed to make the movies they want. They’re not always successful, but my example showed that a filmmaker can successfully use cancer to get a laugh. More importantly, I expressed my opinion without insulting anybody. Perhaps you should direct your attention to doing the same. Insults undercut your opinion and make it hard for anyone to take you seriously.

  15. “Would filmmakers consider using a fatal form of cancer or another deadly disease for comedy?”

    Yes. In Best Picture Oscar winner “Terms of Endearment,” when Debra Winger’s character is at a party and blurts out that she has cancer. I think any filmmaker should be able to make a film about any subject.

  16. Brian says:

    This a tragedy on so many levels it boggles the mind. This is what happens when an industry based on creativity is seemingly bereft of it. Predjudism is never funny and make no mistake, a film about this is just that – perhaps not in its most recognizable form but making fun of the 5.4 million Americans and by extension their caregivers who struggle with this debilitating illness on a daily basis is nothing short of repulsive.

    Shame on you Will Ferrell for even considering this. You owe those who suffer from this horrible affliction a public apology instead of compounding your apparent ignorance by now trying to minimize your association with this project. If not for them, how about for your fans, including this former one, who expected more from you? You are better than this.

  17. crumbinalfighter says:

    After reading Patti Davis’s comments about the foolishness of satirizing her father’s Alzheimer’s disease which robs the mind anothe kills I predicted that the film would not be made andFerrel would not be part of it. I was proven to be prophetic. Never mind the credit give me cash.

  18. Lisa says:

    And this is just another stupid idea by another stupid insensitive male screenwriter named ‘Mike’. So tired of this bs. At the same time a serious film about homelessness with Ellen Page is being slammed as ‘not interesting enough’. This is where our society is going people – in the sewer! The sad and pathetic part is the film would have been made if it weren’t for the Reagan family speaking up. Then we would have had another dumbass so-called comedy written by some fat, sweaty white man and all the other fat sweaty white men would have called it hilarious. Ridiculous.

  19. Joan Hellyer says:

    There are many things to joke about and write a comedy about – but dementia is not one of them. The people who wrote this really need to take the time to educate themselves about the disease. I am beyond shocked that it has gotten to this point – some definite checks and balances need to be put into place regarding this “comedy.”
    ‪#‎Findsomethingelsetojokeabout‬

  20. Tomas Agusto Mivergara says:

    But a film about his involvement in the Iran Contra Scandal and the funneling of millions to support military dictatorships in Central America, can be done with gusto and affirmation cause it’s been proven!

  21. Laurie Stevens says:

    I can’t imagine why anyone would attach themselves to or promote a project as insensitive and disrespectful as this. Shame on anyone associated with it.

  22. prompterbob says:

    This project was beyond stupid. Regardless what one feels about President Reagan, he did not choose to die from Alzheimer’s. It is an absolutely horrible disease which can strike any one of us next. This film reeks of Hollywood liberals who think their shit doesn’t stink and love to stick it to conservatives every chance they get. Glad Ferrell had the sense to drop it.

  23. It would have been much funnier to see Ferrell play an African American fist-bumping on a golf-course after grimly announcing the beheading of an American by ISIS.

  24. Barry says:

    wow, to be consumed with such hatred for someone over their politics to want to make such a horrible movie. awful…..

  25. Daniel says:

    Let David Mamet do a rewite and all will be well.

  26. In reflection on the state of contemporary culture as a person in their late 20s, other day it occurred to me: I am completely ambivalent about Beyonce’s wannabe Terence Malick flick, relatively unmoved and uninterested in ‘Hamilton’, and could really not care less about where transexuals go to toilet. Don’t say that aloud, I thought, you’ll alienate people. So I didn’t. Then today I read about Will Ferrell, the comedian, rapidly back-pedaling from a comedic/satire based film about Ronald Reagan’s time with Alzheimers. The entire film may apparently be scrapped, some reports infer.

    Why? Because it has been labeled insensitive, off color, inappropriate, what have you. We say we embrace change, and still we cringe from anything that might make us think of things unpleasant yet inevitable such as illness, death, heartbreak; and when we can state those things are ‘artistic’, they had better well be seen through the veils of drama and somberness, better yet as a period piece.
    Has this generation become so rabidly sensitive that we are not only willing, but wanting, to censor comedy? Satire is one of the few forms of expression almost universally exempted from legal action such as copyright issues, libel, slander, and so on. Yet by the power of a large group of people claiming “somebody’s feelings will be hurt” or “this is not in good taste” on various forms of social media, we have found a way to begin silencing satire.

    Forget that it’s Alzheimers. Picture whatever offends you personally: racism, feminism, mysogyny, homophobia, mental illness, the color blue, whatever, and then ask yourself, is it worth destroying the freedom to satirize these things simply so you can feel ‘comfortable’?

    Humor does not have to be in good taste, and is often all the better for not being so; consider the now landmark works of Lenny Bruce, Parker and Stone, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, the list goes on and is endless.

    If we are so delicate in our minds, so politically correct in our behaviors, so milquetoast in our cultural philosophies, then we have forgotten something important in pursuit of a ‘better’ society: Laughter is the only way to beat the Devil.

    • Well said. BTW: I’m 84. Lenny was a personal friend of mine. He did the world a great service telling it like how people really talk.

    • Beth CP says:

      “Forget that it’s Alzheimer’s……” . Right. Forget that you are witness to the gradual robbing of a loved ones’ mind and their ability to function in society. If it was happening to you, Sir, to one of your own relatives or friends, I would think you might have a different take on whether or not satire is the way to approach this monster of a disease. Especially because this condition isn’t something that is completely controllable by the individual afflicted. And that is not something to laugh at. As an artist who is very mindful of freedom of expression, there are certain areas where human decency should govern what is presented and/or produced, preferably by the individual considering the project.

    • Jake says:

      Well said

    • TheCracker says:

      Sir, you have restored my faith in humanity for at least a few more days, Apparently not everybody is a mentally incapacitated as social media has led me to believe. Maybe there are a few more of you out there left?

    • E Van Doren says:

      Calling something stupid, idiotic, and low is not censorship. In this case, it’s simply stating a fact – this project should never have made it past the barroom banter where it was probably hatched. For those who somehow think there’s humor in mocking a mental disorder, maybe you should consider writing a comedy about serial killers. I bet Oliver Stone would love to direct it.
      My question is: What was Will Ferrell smoking that made him attach to the project to begin with?

    • Chizz says:

      As one of the few sane voices pf reason left in this country, you should probably be looking over your shoulder. The government is probably figuring out how to make you disappear

    • EricJ says:

      Nobody “banned” it. We simply booed it off the stage. Audiences are allowed to do that, you know, and happens to comedians all the time.
      Not all of them are as lucky as Ferrell, and have to suffer the embarrassment of being booed off AFTER they tell their joke.

  27. I’m so happy that Will left the project. He is a good guy.

    I have lived in a retirement home filled with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and while I experienced the lighter, more humorous side of it, you just can’t go there. It is so insensitive to far too many people.

    It is a devastating disease for all involved. I’m not sure what the people involved in any part of it were thinking. I like dark humor, but not cruel humor.

    • Cath says:

      That was quick. Hadn’t he read the script beforehand? How is he a “good guy” when he agreed to do the movie in the first place? What did he think the family would say?

      • It’s not uncommon for an actor to become attached to a script that he or she has not read. Very simple. He made a mistake. I have been in business and social situations with him and he is a big hearted guy. This was a misstep. I agree.

  28. Alex says:

    Now he can get back to making crappy films that take place in the 70’s

    • EricJ says:

      What, he’s not going to play narcissistic-doofus legends of (insert ESPN sport here) anymore?

      Or is he just going to continue on his neverending quest to convince us that the Anchorman movies are “the most quotable comedies ever made”, even though most of my Holy Grail and Princess Bride-quoting friends have never seen it in their lives?

  29. Will Ferrell, it took you a few days, but you have redeemed yourself. Take a minute to thank yourself for not making the worst mistake of your professional life. I truly thought you were looking for a quick way out of the industry. Now if only someone could put an open flame to that script, we can go on searching for a cure and supporting the victims and families of this horrific, nightmare of a disease.

    • Chizz says:

      Get over it

      • Conrad says:

        No, Chizz , is simply stupid ,,,, like his friend Will ! Oh my — how about a film about beheading babies — gee ,, Comedy is King ! ” Bad Taste ” — good grief . In one nano second , a junior high kid would say No ! He made a ” mistake ” — Ha — I suggest a change to 20mg for our friend Will — he needs help . He should donate / volunteer to the Alzeimers Association !! Meet those patients & families !
        The absolute worse disease !!!

      • “Chizz” – I can only assume you either have no experience with this disease or its affect on the victim and their family. Or you have no heart. So, either way, you should have no problem “getting over” my comment and moving on with your life.

  30. steve barr says:

    Yes it was in bad taste. So was Reagan ignoring aids , helping turn central America into a slaughter house and looking the other way while drugs poured into the country . His long time personal, financial and political relationship with the mobs man in Hollwood for over fifty years was also in bad taste .

    • Amelia says:

      Uh, no, Reagan didn’t ignore aids – at the time, nobody knew what was even causing the symptoms or how to handle it. Mobs man? Are you high?

      • Amelia says:

        Uh, “fear”, I have read my history – about eight books on Reagan alone. Have you?

      • Survivor says:

        Read your history, dear…and talk to the thousands of survivors and loved ones of the deceased about how the Reagan administration handled AIDS. They’ll tell you another story.

    • Nate says:

      So, if you disagree w a person’s policies, it’s all right to satirize his/her devastating illness?

  31. JasmineSkyy says:

    This is a loss to society. Yes, filmmakers have made light of a fatal disease such as Cancer with movies like “50/50” and the TV show “The Big C”. Comedy is good for the soul. It would have brought Alzheimers to the mainstream had it been done properly.

    • Danny says:

      50/50 was far from a comedy. There were plenty of funny moments, but the movie was a pretty heavy movie about living with cancer and an uncertain life expectancy.

      • Barry says:

        a “loss to society??” you need to have your head examined.

      • JasmineSkyy says:

        It was a dark comedy. The comparison I’m making is justified seeing as we don’t know what Ferrell was going to do with this film and you failed to refute my mention of The Big C.

    • Amelia says:

      Uh, those are treatable diseases.Would you give the go-ahead if your loved one was suffering with Alhzheimers? Maybe there should be a movie about FDR being a cripple too, just focusing on that?

      • EricJ says:

        Well, we did have a movie that focused on FDR being a cripple (got an Oscar nomination for Greer Garson)–It just wasn’t a comedy.
        Because no one is “angry” at FDR enough to think he “deserves” the revenge of joking about wheelchairs. Which, again, is why McFarlane’s Lincoln joke died onstage, because no one is “angry” at Lincoln enough to cheer the bullet.

        If you’re going to satirize dark material, make sure you know who’s side you’re on. Because the audience knows who’s side -they’re- on, and they don’t like bullies, no matter how righteously angry or decade-deconstructing the comics may think they are in their satirical “mission”.

  32. Joe says:

    He made the right call. This property screams controversy and box office failure.

  33. JE Vizzusi says:

    I heard a Statement from Ben M. on TCM, if Ronnie would of become a bigger star then politics would most likely never had happened. So really he was a so so actor and it seemed the Studios never quite knew what do do with him. Being the fact most of his work is comedy then why in the world would his family be upset.Same with Nancy (Davis) Reagan. Her career in film was very so so.. so why not let Ronnie be immortalized by a Industry that he flopped in.

    • Amelia says:

      Hi JE Vizzusi, I don’t think Ben M. is much of an expert on Reagan then. Basically Reagan had hit movies and Nancy gave up her career to be a housewife. Not all of his work was in comedy, like you say. Please do some fact checking, okay? Thanks.

  34. billy1 says:

    Cons always shout “freedom of speech” and decry “censorship” widen they are spouting their racist. misogynist comments, but they are the first to shut down anything that goes against their ignorant ideals.

    • jordywax says:

      Think. They didn’t “shut it down.” They used their freedom of speech to voice their opinion.

    • z says:

      Liberals are the Thought Police Nazis.

    • Greggreen29 says:

      Did you see the leftists riot outside the Trump rally? That’s where the violence and censorship in the US comes from. Or the PC police on campuses, requiring safe places when cons can’t be banned from speaking?

    • Amelia says:

      Billy1, then why wasn’t the “Path to 9/11” ever able to go to DVD??

    • dan says:

      Go read Twitter – vast anger at this project having nothing to do a Reagan… You obviously haven’t experienced this disease first hand.

  35. EricJ says:

    If it’d had a title that TOLD us it was a fictional comedy–“Morning in America”, or some such–we’d get the joke.
    As it was, they went in with a title that made us think Ferrell was going to go for straight-biopic like Anthony Hopkins’ Nixon (which Ferrell could, the least funny SNL members always make good straight character actors), and everyone bristled at the satirical hack-job.

    Even if Reagan-dementia jokes aren’t “Too soon?” like Seth McFarlane’s Lincoln-shooting joke at the Oscars, me, I hate supposed “biopics” that really aren’t. It just seems -lazy- not to do one.
    And yeah, we thought Ferrell-headlining comedies were So Over after “Land of the Lost”.

  36. Jesse says:

    I think comedy is one of the best ways to deal with the harsh realities of life. Not sure how Ferrell would handle it, but as a person who saw first hand the effects of Alzheimer’s in my family, I would welcome a comedic take on it. “Would filmmakers consider using a fatal form of cancer or another deadly disease for comedy?” I say YES and this applies to any tragedy, any disease, at anytime. Laughing will help you grow, and help the many of us out there trying to make sense of this messed up world

  37. Mjkbk says:

    And this screenplay was on the Black List survey–among the most WELL-LIKED, unproduced projects in Hollywood. Figures.

    I didn’t think my opinion of Hollywood mores could sink any lower. Wrong again, I guess……

  38. Adam says:

    The movie would have been a box office dud for Ferrell anyway so this worked out for the best.

  39. jrzygirl65 says:

    Good for Ferrell for pulling out. Would have been nice if hadn’t entertained the idea of doing it in the first place. That said, I’d watch a DRAMA about hiding the President’s illness from the American public.

    • Amelia says:

      What drama? Because Reagan didn’t have dementia when he was in office. If you don’t believe me, just read his “diaries” book. (Why can’t people do their research instead of relying on hearsay, is beyond me).

  40. Spike says:

    THE SCREENWRITER GETS A DARWIN AWARD. WHAT A F—ING BOZO BRAIN.

  41. Wendy Herman says:

    Variety, it’s “commander-in-chief” not “commander and chief.” :-/

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