'The Notebook' actress Gena Rowlands is living with Alzheimer's disease, son says

"We lived it, she acted it, and now it's on us,” said her son.

June 26, 2024, 12:27 PM

Gena Rowlands, best known for playing the older version of Allie Calhoun in the romantic classic "The Notebook," has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, according to her son, the film's director Nick Cassavetes.

Rowlands, 94, now battling the disease in real life, played a character in the film who famously struggled with her memory at a later age, setting the stage for the telling of the story's plot.

"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 told Entertainment Weekly in a story this week.

"She's in full dementia. And it's so crazy — we lived it, she acted it, and now it's on us," Cassavetes added.

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disease that affects parts of the brain that control memory, speaking, and thought, according to to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Dr. Leah Croll, a neurologist at Maimonides Hospital, the disease disproportionately affects women. "About 4 million women in the U.S. suffer with Alzheimer's. They make up about two-thirds of all adults living with Alzheimer's," Croll told "Good Morning America."

Croll said lifestyle can play a significant role in combating the disease, recommending the practice of a good night's sleep, exercise, a healthy diet and managing stress.

In this Feb. 28, 2016 file photo, Gena Rowlands arrives at the 88th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, Calif.
Gregg Deguire/WireImage via Getty Images

In 2004, Rowlands opened up to O Magazine about her role in "The Notebook," sharing that her own mother's battle with Alzheimer's disease made playing Allie a difficult task.

"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," shared Rowlands at the time.

Rowlands made her film debut in the "The High Cost of Loving" in 1958. She went on to work closely with her husband, legendary indie filmmaker John Cassavetes for decades, including roles in movies such as "A Woman Under the Influence" and "Faces."

In 2015, she was presented with an honorary Oscar for her contribution in film.