Actress Who Portrayed Wife With Alzheimer’s In ‘The Notebook’ Diagnosed With The Same Disease

Oh, wow! Roommates, here’s an unfortunate instance of real-life mirroring art. Gena Rowlands, the actress who portrayed the elderly wife with Alzheimer’s in ‘The Notebook,’ is now living with the same disease.

Her son, Nick Cassavetes, recently provided Entertainment Weekly with the update. For those who don’t know, Nick directed the 2004 romance film, which remains a cult classic in American pop culture.

Latest Update On Gena Rowlands’ Health

As mentioned, Gena portrayed the role of Allie in her later years, living in a nursing home with dementia from Alzheimer’s disease. ‘The Notebook’ shows her husband Noah, played by James Garner, retelling their love story to her in hopes that she’ll remember their life together. And she does, for very brief moments, before ultimately passing away.

When Gena Rowlands took on the role, she was in her early 70s. Now, at 93, her son Nick says she is experiencing very similar symptoms to her movie character. He spoke on the matter ahead of the film’s 20th anniversary today (June 25).

Like the older Allie, Gena also has severe dementia after seemingly being diagnosed about five years ago.

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

Gena Rowlands Actress Who Portrayed Wife With Alzheimer's In 'The Notebook' Diagnosed With The Same Disease 
Nick Cassavetes, director and mother Gena Rowlands (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)

Gena Previously Spoke About Why She Agreed To Portray A Character With Alzheimer’s

According to the outlet, Gena’s mother, Lady Rowlands, also had Alzheimer’s disease. Given the pain of that real-life experience, Gena previously said she would’ve passed on the role. Part of the reason she moved forward with acting in ‘The Notebook’ was because her son Nick was its director.

“I’ve acted in a number of projects that Nick has directed. This last one… 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 — it’s just too hard. It was a tough but wonderful movie,” Gena told O Magazine in 2004.

Nick didn’t go into additional details about his mother’s day-to-day with the disease or her care situation. However, the Alzheimer’s Association lists some of the following as both early signs and symptoms of the disease: memory loss that disrupts daily life, challenges in planning and solving problems, struggles to complete familiar tasks, confusion with time and place, and inability to retracing steps.

Despite the current circumstances, the director mentioned that, even 20 years later, he’s proud of their work in ‘The Notebook.’

“I’m just happy that it exists,” Nick told ET. “It seems to have worked and I’m very proud of it.”

Prayers up for Gena Rowlands and their family during this time!

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