Will Ferrell has pulled out of starring as Ronald Reagan in a controversial new Hollywood comedy chronicling the late US President’s second term in office that had upset his family, friends and former aides.
Ferrell had been reported by showbiz industry publication “Variety” to be playing the title role in “Reagan”.
The plot of the film, set between 1984 and 1989, is about an intern seeking to convince President Reagan, who is depicted as suffering from Alzheimer’s during the latter years of his time in the White House , that he is actually an actor playing the President.
But a spokesperson for Ferrell told the New York Post: “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 a ‘Alzheimer’s comedy’ as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project.”
Reagan allies had told Heat Street their opposition to the project. Bob Colacello, a close friend of Ronald and Nancy Reagan and author of “Ronnie and Nancy: Their Path to the White House, 1911-1980”, said the plot was factually incorrect as well as being potentially offensive.
He said: “Reagan did not fall into dementia during his Presidency. If it persuades people that he did have dementia throughout his second term, that’s a falsehood that is being propagated.
“That is upsetting and not very ethical. It’s a partisan approach. Will Ferrell should read some of the biographies and see what Reagan’s doctors have to say.
“The memoirs of George Shultz [President Reagan’s Secretary of State] and Gorbachev[former Soviet Union President] describe one-on-one meetings with Reagan in which he’s totally engaged.
“The first real signs he had dementia showed up in 1992 when he repeated an introductory toast to Margaret Thatcher at a dinner at which the Reagan Foundation was honoring her. He was diagnosed with Alzheimers in 1994.
“So it’s obviously fictional. But from the beginning the left have always tried to portray Ronald Reagan as a joke. Unfortunately for them he proved them wrong in spades and probably had the last truly successful Presidency.”
Mark Weinberg, a special assistant to President Reagan and assistant press secretary in the Reagan White House, said: “If I want to see Ronald Reagan on film, I’ll watch “Knute Rockne All American” [the 1940 film in which he played football player George Gipp, nicknamed ‘The Gipper.’]
Mr.Weinberg, who is writing a book entitled “Movie Nights at the Reagans'”, added: “The premise of the movie is strange. But Will Ferrell is a talented actor and I’m not yet in a position to judge the film.”
Reagan’s son Michael, the 71-year-old eldest living child of the late President, tweeted his opposition to the film writing: Alzheimers is not [a] joke…It kills..You should be ashamed all of you.”
— Michael Reagan (@ReaganWorld) April 27, 2016
Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis had told the New York Post: “There’s nothing funny about Alzheimer’s. It is terrifying for the families of those who suffer from it..this movie is cruel, not just to my father, but to the millions of people who have the disease, and the millions more who care for them and watch them suffer every day.”
Ferrell previously played former President George W.Bush in comedy sketches for “Saturday Night Live” and on Broadway in “You’re Welcome America. A final Night with George W Bush” which was filmed for HBO.
The script to “Reagan”, by Mike Rosolio, was on the 2015 “Black List”, a celebrated annual survey of the film industry’s most-liked, unproduced scripts but no director is yet attached.
A reading of the script was staged last February starring James Brolin as President Reagan and Lena Dunham as his speechwriter Peggy Noonan. (Ms Noonan did not return an e-mail request for comment.)
Ferrell will co-produce the film. Earlier this year he was reported to have changed his Presidential allegiance from Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton.
Ferrell was also a major Democratic donor in 2012 maxing out to President Obama’s 2012 election campaign. His 2012 film “The Campaign” was a thinly veiled satire on billionaire Conservative fundraiser brothers Charles and David Koch.
Entertainment journalist Jeffrey Wells, who writes blog Hollywood Elsewhere and who has read “Reagan”, wrote of the script: “Reagan is out to lunch a good half the time, but finds a new confidence and clarity of purpose when an intern named Frank persuades the former actor that he’s playing the part of a U.S. president.
“Reagan” climaxes with the Iran-Contra scandal, which resulted in Reagan more or less admitting on TV that he didn’t remember approving the scheme.
“The point or payoff of “Reagan” is that all U.S. Presidents are totems, players of roles, figureheads, and that the guys who really run the show are the permanent, behind-the-scenes players.
But Mr Colacello said: “Will Ferrell wouldn’t come to mind as the first person to play Reagan but he is very talented at impersonations. He is a great comedian but Reagan was not a joke.”
Will Ferrell to play dementia stricken Ronald Reagan. Is there no limit to the lefts stupidity? Reagan's family should sue to stop this.
— FJN (@FernandoJNunez) April 28, 2016