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

Gena Rowlands has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. (New Line Cinema/Getty)

Gena Rowlands, who is famed for playing the older version of Allie in The Notebook, has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Gena played the older version of the character famously played by Rachel McAdams (for which Britney Spears was also revealed to audition) in the iconic 2004 romance comedy.  

Her son, director and actor Nick Cassavetes — who directed the film adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel — confirmed Gena’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

He told Entertainment Weekly: “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.

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

The actress played the older version of Allie, who also had dementia, in The Notebook. (New Line Cinema)

The My Sister’s Keeper director’s grandmother, actress Lady Rowlands (who appeared in the 1974 movie A Woman Under the Influence alongside Gena), was also diagnosed with the condition.

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Gena previously spoke about the “tough” decision to take on the role of Allie, given her experience navigating her mother’s Alzheimer’s. 

“This last one — The Notebook, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks — was particularly hard because I play a character who has Alzheimer’s,” she told O magazine in 2004.  

“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.”

The star’s filmography has spanned almost seven decades, garnering two Oscar nominations and one honorary Academy Award.

If this story has affected you, call the Alzheimer’s Association on 800 272 3900 for 24/7 support for people living with dementia, caregivers and families in the US. In the UK, call the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Connect support line on 033 150 3456 between 9 am-8 pm Monday to Wednesday, and until 5 pm on Thursdays and Fridays, and 10 am-4 pm on weekends.

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