The Notebook star Gena Rowlands diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, her director son reveals

Gena Rowlands is in the full grip of Alzheimers
-Credit: (Image: BANG Showbiz.)

Gena Rowlands, the legendary actress known for her role as the dementia-stricken Allie in The Notebook, is now in the "full" grip of Alzheimer's disease.

Her son, Nick Cassavetes, who directed the 2004 romantic drama and is himself a renowned filmmaker at 65, shared the heartbreaking health news with Entertainment Weekly during the film's 20th anniversary celebrations on Tuesday, 25 June.

He revealed: "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 reflected on the cruel twist of fate, saying: "She's in full dementia, and it's so crazy we lived it, she acted it, and now it's on us."

Sadly, 94 year old Gena's own mother, Lady Rowlands, passed away at 95 in 1999 after battling Alzheimer's.

James Garner and Gena Rowlands in 2004 hit film The Notebook
James Garner and Gena Rowlands in 2004 hit film The Notebook -Credit:Melissa Moseley/New Line/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock

In a 2004 interview with O magazine, Gena opened up about how her mother's fight with the degenerative disease influenced her portrayal of Allie, stating: "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."

She worked on The Notebook, with Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, and the late James Garner, and said: "It was a tough but wonderful movie."

Reflecting on the enduring popularity of The Notebook, adapted from Nicholas Sparks' 1996 novel, Gena's son, director Nick, remarked that the film "holds up pretty good" two decades later.

Despite the passage of time, he expressed surprise: "It's always a shock to hear that as much time has gone by as it has, but it makes sense. I'm just happy that it exists. It seems to have worked, and I'm very proud of it."

Gena is also celebrated for her iconic collaborations with her late husband, John Cassavetes – who passed away in 1989 at the age of 59 due to complications related to liver disease – starring in the 1974 hit A Woman Under the Influence and the 1980 classic Gloria.

She earned Academy Award nominations for both performances, and her most recent screen appearance was in the 2014 comedy Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, alongside the talented Cheyenne Jackson.