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"The Notebook" Star Gena Rowlands Diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease


Wed 26 Jun 2024 | 08:42 AM
Gena Rowlands
Gena Rowlands
Yara Sameh

Gena Rowlands, who portrayed an older version of Rachel McAdam's character, Allie, in the 2004 romance movie "The Notebook," has been living with Alzheimer's disease for the past five years. 

In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Nick Cassavetes, the director of the movie and Rowlands' son, said Rowlands is “in full dementia.” 

A four-time Emmy winner and two-time Golden Globe winner, Rowlands,94, is a screen icon best known for her acclaimed collaborations with husband John Cassavetes, including the moviee “A Woman Under the Influence” (1974) and “Gloria” (1980). Both performances earned her Oscar nominations for best actress. She received an honorary Academy Award in 2015.

Gena Rowlands

Nick Cassavetes added that his mother’s Alzheimer’s disease is made all the more surreal for him considering he directed her as a woman with dementia in “The Notebook.”

“I got my mom to play older Allie, and we spent a lot of time talking about Alzheimer’s and wanting to be authentic with it, and now, for the last five years, she’s had Alzheimer’s,” Cassavetes noted. “She’s in full dementia. And it’s so crazy — we lived it, she acted it, and now it’s on us.”

Cassavetes’ grandmother and Rowlands’ mother, the actress Lady Rowlands, also had Alzheimer’s disease. 

Rowlands told O magazine in 2004 while promoting “The Notebook” that she channeled her mother while playing Allie.

“This last one — ‘The Notebook,’ based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks — was particularly hard because I play a character who has Alzheimer’s,” Rowlands told the publication at the time. “I went through that with my mother, and if Nick hadn’t directed the film, I don’t think I would have gone for it — it’s just too hard. It was a tough but wonderful movie.”

Gena Rowlands

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Nick Cassavetes said that he has nothing but fond memories of working with his mother on “The Notebook” set. 

He remembered one moment in which studio executives forced him to reshoot the ending because they wanted Rowland’s older Allie to cry more when she realizes her history with Garner’s Noah

“She said, ‘Let me get this straight. We’re reshooting because of my performance?,'” Cassavetes remembered. “We go to reshoots, and now it’s one of those things where mama’s pissed and I had asked her, ‘Can you do it, mom?’ She goes, ‘I can do anything,’. I promise you, on my father’s life, this is true: Teardrops came flying out of her eyes [on the first take] when she saw [Garner], and she burst into tears. And I was like, okay, well, we got that… It’s the one time I was in trouble on set.”

Rowlands’ last feature film role was the 2014 comedy “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks,” co-starring Cheyenne Jackson.