‘The Notebook’ Actress Gena Rowlands Has Alzheimer’s Disease 5

Gena Rowlands, the legendary actress who memorably played a woman with dementia in The Notebook, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, her son and the film’s director Nick Cassavetes has told Entertainment Weekly.

The 2004 movie classic directed by Cassavetes starred Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as a young couple who fall in love, but are kept apart by barriers of wealth and class. Their story is recounted years later by an elderly man played by James Garner to Rowlands, who is first identified a fellow nursing home resident with dementia. It’s later revealed that Garner and Rowlands are the married, older versions of the characters played by soulmates Gosling and McAdams.

“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 said of life mirroring art as Rowlands, 93, now lives with dementia.

“She’s in full dementia. And it’s so crazy — we lived it, she acted it, and now it’s on us,” Cassavetes added. Also Tuesday, Associated Press reported a representative for Rowlands confirmed that Cassavetes “speaks for the family.”

The Notebook, based on Nicholas Sparks’ debut 1996 novel of the same name, was recently mounted on Broadway as a live theatrical production. Rowlands’ mother, Lady Rowlands, died in 1999 at age 95 years after also having lived with dementia.

“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,” Rowlands had said of her Notebook role in a 2004 interview with O magazine.

Two decades after The Notebook became a box office hit, Cassavetes was looking back on the film and his collaboration with his mother with creative satisfaction. “It’s always a shock to hear that as much time has gone by as it has, but it makes sense. I’m just happy that it exists… It seems to have worked, and I’m very proud of it,” he told EW.

The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to representatives for Rowlands and Cassavetes.

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