Producer-director and frequent Will Ferrell collaborator Adam McKay says he was shocked by the near-instantaneous outrage that greeted the announcement of his now-scrapped Ronald Reagan Alzheimer’s film, saying in a recent interview that the film’s script was more “thoughtful” than critics realize.
“We were all taken aback,” the Oscar-winning Big Short director told the Hollywood Reporter of the vocal criticism of the film. “It was weird. It seemed like everyone piled on it without knowing at all what the script was about. The reason we even looked at the script is because it’s actually really thoughtful and it had some sensitivity to the subject.”
Variety reported late last month that Ferrell was attached to play the late President Reagan in the satirical comedy film Reagan, the screenplay of which made the 2015 Black List of the best un-produced scripts in the industry.
The fictional story is set shortly after Reagan wins a second term in a landslide in 1984. As the president begins to suffer from dementia, a young intern must convince him that he is an actor in a movie where he is playing the president. The event description from a recent live reading of the script describes it as a “hilarious political satire.”
McKay, best known for comedies like Step Brothers and Anchorman, was attached to produce the film alongside Ferrell, who was set to star as Reagan. The two frequently collaborate on projects under their Gary Sanchez Productions banner.
But plans for the film were quickly derailed after some media outlets and members of Reagan’s own family sharply criticized its tone.
As Breitbart News noted at the time of the film’s announcement, President Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994, five years after leaving office. The film’s apparent plan to satirize his tragic battle with mental illness appeared to many to be yet another attempt by the left to discredit the achievements of one of the greatest presidents in American history.
The announcement of the film also came just weeks after the death of former First Lady Nancy Reagan, who cared for her husband until his death in 2004.
Actress and author Patti Davis, the daughter of President Reagan, penned a moving open letter to Ferrell shortly after the film’s announcement in which she described first-hand the horrific ways that Alzheimer’s had robbed her father of his vitality.
“Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities,” Davis wrote the actor. “I have — I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.”
In his brief interview with THR, McKay said the project was in very early stages when his involvement was announced, and that it was “just something we were looking at.”
“Then all of a sudden it just steamrolled,” he added. “You know, the press is a beast.”
McKay is currently working on the story for Ant-Man sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp, due out in 2018.
Follow Daniel Nussbaum on Twitter: @dznussbaum