Gena Rowlands Has Same Disease as Her Character in The Notebook

Son who directed her in 2004 movie says she is 'in full dementia'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 25, 2024 4:00 PM CDT
The Notebook Star Gena Rowlands Has Alzheimer's
Gena Rowlands, puts on make-up in her dressing room for her role as leading lady in "Middle of the Night" in New York on Nov. 21, 1956.   (AP Photo/Hans von Nolde, File)

Heartbreaking news from filmmaker Nick Cassavetes: He says his mother, Gena Rowlands, has Alzheimer's disease, like her character Allie did in The Notebook, which he directed. In the 2004 movie, Rowlands, now 94, played the older version of the character played by Rachael 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 tells Entertainment Weekly. "She's in full dementia. And it's so crazy—we lived it, she acted it, and now it's on us."

Rowlands' mother, actress Lady Rowlands, also had the disease, Variety reports. She appeared in several movies directed by Rowlands' husband, John Cassavetes, who died in 1989. Lady Rowlands died at age 95 five years before The Notebook was made. In a 2004 interview with O Magazine, Rowland said she almost didn't take the role. She said it was "particularly hard because I play a character who has Alzheimer's. 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." (More Alzheimer's disease stories.)

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