LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) - 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 satirises an individual living with Alzheimer's or another dementia," the Chicago-based organisation 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 that 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 humour."
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.