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The Notebook’s Gena Rowlands Has Alzheimer’s: What Her Family Has Shared About Her Condition 

The actress’ condition mirrors that of her character’s in the famed Nicholas Sparks book


Hollywood starlet Gena Rowlands has Alzheimer’s, her son revealed in June. Hers is a story and diagnosis all too familiar — in one of her most beloved roles, she played a woman with dementia. While many may know her face as that belonging to the older version of Rachel McAdams’ character Allie in The Notebook, the 94-year-old actress has a resume that expands far beyond the Nicholas Sparks classic.

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Who is Gena Rowlands? 

Rowlands  is a two-time Oscar nominee, a two-time Golden Globe winner and four-time Emmy winner, and in 2015, she received an honorary Academy Award. Some of her most notable films include A Woman Under the Influence (1974), in which she collaborated with her husband John Cassavetes, Gloria (1980), Hope Floats (1998), The Skeleton Key (2005) and many more. 

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Gena Rowlands, 1980
Gena Rowlands, 1980Bettmann/Getty Images

As for her diagnosis, her son, Nick Cassavetes – who directed his mother in The Notebook – revealed the status of her illness to Entertainment Weekly

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What Nick Cassavetes said about his mother Gena Rowlands

In a discussion about the 20th anniversary of the Sparks hit book and movie adaption, Cassavetes revealed his mother’s health status. 

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

Looking back on the memories made while filming ‘The Notebook’

Despite the fact that the film now holds a more heartfelt element of reality, Cassavetes still looks back fondly on the times he remembers filming with his mother. 

Reflecting on a day in which they had to film reshoots, he recalled Rowlands saying, “’Let me get this straight. We’re reshooting because of my performance?'”

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He continued, “We go to reshoots, and now it’s one of those things where mama’s pissed and I had asked her, ‘Can you do it, mom?’ She goes, ‘I can do anything.’”

“I promise you, on my father’s life, this is true: Teardrops came flying out of her eyes when she saw [James Garner], and she burst into tears. And I was like, okay, well, we got that… It’s the one time I was in trouble on set.”

Gena Rowlands and Nick Cassavetes, 2014
Gena Rowlands and Nick Cassavetes, 2014Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SCAD

‘The Notebook’ connects with people to this day

For Cassavetes, he’s living a portion of the fictional story he brought to life — and many others experience the same thing. He revealed that he still receives messages and stories from fans of the film, many of whom share their own experiences revolving around dementia.  

“‘This is the story of my parents,’ or, ‘This is the story of my wife and I,’ things like that. I’ve heard that quite a bit over the years, very frequently. And I think that’s why this story resonates. I think most families, most people have a personal connection with dementia in some ways,” he said. “It speaks to that question of, what if I’m lost? Am I going to be alone? And the answer in The Notebook is no, he’s going to love you anyway.”

Gena Rowlands’ connection to Alzheimer’s before her diagnosis

In a 2004 interview, Rowlands discussed her personal connection to the film as someone who had been affected by Alzheimer’s at the time. 

This last one—The Notebook, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks — 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,” she said.

For more stories on Hollywood starlets, click through below:

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Marilyn Monroe Said ‘Imperfection Is Beauty’ — Here Are 14 Photos Over The Course of Her Life That Prove Her Right

13 Stunning Throwback Photos of Shirley MacLaine That You Have to See to Believe!

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