It appears that Will Ferrell won’t be playing an Alzheimer’s-ridden President Ronald Reagan after all. A couple of days ago, word surfaced that Ferrell was in early talks to star in and produce the comedy Reagan, which “begins at the start of the ex-president’s second term when he falls into dementia and an ambitious intern is tasked with convincing the commander in chief that he is an actor playing the president in a movie.” The script by Mike Rosolio landed on the Black List and even had a live read performed this past March by Lena Dunham and John Cho, but almost immediately after news broke of Ferrell’s involvement, there was considerable backlash over the controversial take on the former president’s life.
Now, THR reports that Ferrell will no longer be starring in or producing the film. Ferrell’s spokesperson tells THR that the actor was never officially attached to the project, adding that “the Reagan script is one of a number of scripts that had been submitted to Will Ferrell which he had considered. While it is by no means a ‘Alzheimer’s comedy’ as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project.” So while the actor’s involvement with the film was tenuous at best, it’s now clear that we won’t be seeing Ferrell playing Ronald Reagan in this particular project at all.
After the initial casting broke, Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis penned an open letter to Ferrell detailing the grave seriousness of Reagan’s illness and the toll it took on their family. As one can imagine, Republicans as a whole were not too fond of the prospect of Reagan either, and while Ferrell is certainly no stranger to controversy—his hilarious one-man-show Broadway play You’re Welcome America took uncompromising aim at former president George W. Bush—perhaps poking fun at Reagan’s illness felt like a more mean-spirited kind of comedy altogether.
Regardless, Reagan was not set up at a studio and Ferrell’s attachment would have been what finally made this project move forward, so as of now it’s only a screenplay. It’s unclear if anyone else would be game enough to forge ahead with the material now, but Ferrell’s brief flirtation has come to an end.
As for projects that are happening, the actor most recently completed the comedy The House opposite Amy Poehler, and Warner Bros. just announced that it’s moving ahead with a sequel to the comedy Daddy’s Home with Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg reprising their roles.