Gena Rowlands has Alzheimer's, son Nick Cassavetes reveals: 'She's in full dementia'


When Oscar winner Gena Rowlands appeared in “The Notebook” 20 years ago, she starred as an older version of Rachel McAdams’ character who was living with Alzheimer’s. Now, she’s living with the disease.

The prolific 94-year-old actor, who is the widow of director John Cassavetes, has Alzheimer’s, her son and “The Notebook” director Nick Cassavetes revealed in a recent interview. For Entertainment Weekly, the filmmaker looked back on 20 years of “The Notebook,” breaking down one of its most emotional moments starring his mother.

“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 in the interview, published Tuesday.

“She’s in full dementia,” Cassavetes added, before reflecting on life now imitating his art. “It’s so crazy — we lived it, she acted it, and now it’s on us,” he said.

In “The Notebook,” Rowlands’ Allie and James Garner’s Noah (an older version of the heartthrob played by Ryan Gosling) reminisce on the tender memories of their decades-long romance all documented in a journal. After a moment of recognition and a slow dance, Allie forgets who her lover is and pushes him away.

“What do you want? What are you doing here?” Rowlands’ Allie tells Garner’s Noah. “Don’t come near me.”

Cassavetes did not go into details about his mother’s Alzheimer’s battle but instead recalled her behind-the-scenes confidence about her acting skills. He told EW that he is still proud of “The Notebook” 20 years later: “I’m just happy that it exists.”

Alzheimer’s disease is a brain disorder that progresses over time. It “causes the brain to shrink and brain cells to eventually die,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia, which is a “gradual decline in memory, thinking, behavior and social skills” that can affect a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks.

Mayo Clinic says approximately 6.5 million people in the United States age 65 and older live with the disorder. There is no cure for the disease. Rowlands’ mother, actor Lady Rowlands, also had Alzheimer’s disease, according to EW.

Gena Rowlands, whose decades-long career spans TV, film and theater, received an honorary Oscar in 2016. Before becoming an Oscar winner, the two-time nominee told the The Times in 2015 that she enjoyed “The Notebook” and its “whole idea of love lasting forever.”



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