‘The Notebook’ Star Gena Rowlands Diagnosed With Alzheimer’s

Gena Rowlands, known for her roles in “A Woman Under the Influence,” “Gloria” and “The Notebook,” has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, according to her son Nick Cassavetes.

The director revealed the diagnosis while looking back on his mother’s work as part of the 20th anniversary of “The Notebook.” In the 2004 romantic drama, Rowlands played an older version of Allie (Rachel McAdams’ character) who is living with dementia in her old age.

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

Rowlands’ own performance in “The Notebook” was inspired by her mother’s struggle with the disease. During a 2004 interview with O Magazine, Rowlands said that playing the character was “particularly hard” and noted that if her son wasn’t the one directing the project, she didn’t think she would have starred in it. “It was a tough but wonderful movie,” Rowlands said.

Though she’s best known to younger audiences for her work in the Nicolas Sparks movie, Rowlands has been an acclaimed onscreen performer for decades. She made her Broadway debut in the 1950s with “The Seven Year Itch” and soon after made her TV debut, starring alongside Paul Stewart in the short-lived 1954 series “Top Secret.”

Over the course of her career, Rowlands won three Emmys for 1987’s “A Betty Ford Story,” 1992’s “Face of a Stranger” and 2003’s “Hysterical Blindness” and was nominated five more times. She was also nominated for two Academy Awards over the course of her career, once for 1974’s “A Woman Under the Influence” and once for 1980’s “Gloria.” Rowlands was later awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 2015 in recognition of her work and legacy in Hollywood.

The same year she was awarded the Oscar, Rowlands announced that she was retiring from acting.

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