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The Ordeal of Gena Rowlands

Gena Rowlands young in front of a light blue background

The legendary American actress Gena Rowlands, aged 94, has Alzheimer’s disease, her son, the director Nick Cassavetes, announced during an interview.

Ironically, she had portrayed in 2004, in The NotebookN’oublie jamais, a woman suffering from this same disease, alongside Ryan Gosling and the lovely Rachel McAdams. In this film, Gena Rowlands played the older version of the character Allie, portrayed by Rachel McAdams, a woman who had forgotten her past.

Every day, an old man would read her the same book telling a love story from the 1930s between Allie Hamilton, a wealthy young girl, and Noah Calhoun, a laborer.

"I asked my mother to play the older Allie, and we talked a lot about Alzheimer’s disease to be authentic," explained Nick Cassavetes. And now, for the past five years, she has had this disease. She is in full dementia. And it’s so crazy — we lived it, she played it, and now it’s happening to us."

Gena Rowlands’ own mother had also suffered from Alzheimer’s, which had led the actress to accept this challenging role.

A memorable actress with a career spanning at least seven decades, Gena Rowlands has worked with renowned directors like William Friedkin, Lasse Hallström, and Jim Jarmusch. In 2016, she received an honorary Oscar for her entire career.

She formed a legendary couple in Hollywood with director and actor John Cassavetes. Together, they made eight films, including A Woman Under the Influence (1974) and Gloria (1980). They had three children who found their place in cinema: director Nick Cassavetes, actress and director Alexandra Cassavetes, and finally screenwriter Zoe Cassavetes.