The realities of Alzheimer’s disease and its effects on both the patients and their loved ones form the core of “Still Alice,” starring Julianne Moore as Dr. Alice Howland, a 50-year-old college professor who is diagnosed with Early-onset Familial Alzheimer’s.
Pic bows at TIFF today. CAA is repping U.S. rights, while Memento Films is handling international.
The drama is based on a 2007 novel from author and neuroscientist Lisa Genova, to which directors Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer said they responded strongly. “(We wanted) the audience connect to Alice throughout her intense emotional journey, and for this to happen, it had to ring true; every moment had to feel completely real,” they said. “Alice has … a rarer form of the disease but movies are often made about the ‘exceptional case’ and we hope this will still allow an emotional access to people with all levels of personal Alzheimer’s experience or none at all.”
Alzheimer’s advocate Maria Shriver served as exec producer for the film, the latest in a decade’s worth of her efforts to spread awareness of the disease through the media, including executive producing “The Alzheimer’s Project,” a four-part HBO doc series.
For Shriver, projects like “Still Alice” serve to help the public understand and interact with the disease, and can hopefully lead people to be more proactive about it in their own lives.
“This isn’t just a disease in the corner, this is a big deal,” Shriver said. “People will become more aware that this isn’t just something that happens to people who are ninety. This is happening to people all across the country to people who are in their 50s and 60s and with all the baby boomers.”
In order to play the role of Alice, Moore underwent a research process that she called one of the most fascinating of her career. She spoke with activists in the Alzheimer’s Assn., women diagnosed with similar early-onset diagnoses, and doctors and clinicians who diagnose and treat the disease, as well as visiting a long-term care facility for significantly declined patients.
She said she hopes people will empathize with and understand this woman as she struggles with a disease robbing her of her intellectual capabilities and tries to hold onto her emotional connections to her family.
“As she moves away from her intellectual capabilities, she moves toward a very distinct and very profound emotional connection, because that’s sort of what’s left,” Moore said.