‘The Notebook’ star Gena Rowlands diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease

Actress Gena Rowlands, whose decadeslong career has included starring roles in 1974′s “A Woman Under the Influence,” 1988′s “Another Woman” and 2004′s “The Notebook,” has been living with Alzheimer’s disease in recent years, according to multiple reports.

Rowland’s son, director and actor Nick Cassavetes, told Entertainment Weekly about his mother’s diagnosis while working on a lookback together on his 20-year-old film, “The Notebook.” Rowlands, now 94, played an older version of the character Allie in the film, while Rachel McAdams portrayed a younger version of her.

The elder Allie also had dementia.

“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 told Entertainment Weekly. “She’s in full dementia. And it’s so crazy — we lived it, she acted it, and now it’s on us.”

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting more than 5.8 million Americans in 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scientists do not fully understand what causes the disease, which begins with mild memory loss and can progress to the point where those affected can’t hold a conversation or respond to their environment, health officials said.

The best-known risk factor for Alzheimer’s is age, and researchers believe genetics may play a role, according to the CDC.

Rowlands’ mother, Lady, also had Alzheimer’s, a fact that she said made it “particularly hard” for her to portray Allie in “The Notebook.”

“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,” Rowlands told O magazine in 2004. “It was a tough but wonderful movie.”

Over her more than 60 years in films, on stage and on television, Rowlands earned four Emmy awards and two Golden Globes. In 2015, she received an honorary Oscar for her “powerful, riveting screen performances” and her work — alongside her late husband, filmmaker John Cassavetes — as a pioneer in the indie film movement, according to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.

She last acted in the 2017 short “Unfortunate Circumstances,” according to IMDb.

Comments on this article