“The Notebook” Author Nicholas Sparks Reacts to Gena Rowlands Alzheimer's Diagnosis: 'Such a Cruel Disease'

Gena Rowlands, who played the older version of Rachel McAdams’ character in ‘The Notebook,’ was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease

<p>Gisela Schober/Getty; Eric Fougere/VIP Images/Corbis via Getty</p> Nicholas Sparks; Gena Rowlands

Gisela Schober/Getty; Eric Fougere/VIP Images/Corbis via Getty

Nicholas Sparks; Gena Rowlands

The Notebook’s author is paying homage to acting legend Gena Rowlands after news of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Nicholas Sparks, the writer behind the 1996 novel that inspired the 2004 Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams movie that also featured Rowlands, 93, took to Instagram to honor the actress “during this challenging time.”

Rowlands’ son Nick Cassavetes, who directed his mother in the romantic drama, recently revealed to Entertainment Weekly that the star is “in full dementia.”

Related: Gena Rowlands' Life in Pictures

<p>ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty</p> Gena Rowlands on Nov. 14, 2015


Gena Rowlands on Nov. 14, 2015

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, thought to be the cause of up to 70% of the 55 million people globally with dementia. Per the National Institute on Aging, the disease stems from a "combination of age-related changes in the brain, along with genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors."

Sparks, 58, called it “such a cruel disease” in his June 25 Instagram tribute. “My thoughts and prayers are with Gena, Nick and their family during this challenging time.”

Reflecting on Rowlands’ “powerful portrayal of Allie,” the older version of McAdams’ character in The Notebook, the author added, “Her performance touched millions of hearts and helped bring my story to life in ways I never imagined. I’m truly honored to have worked with such a talented artist.”

He concluded, “I will always cherish her legacy in film and her impact on The Notebook.”

Related: Is The Notebook Based on a True Story? All About the Real Couple Who Inspired Noah and Allie's Epic Romance

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Noting that Rowlands’ onscreen Notebook character also had the disease, Cassavetes, 65, told EW, “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... it's so crazy — we lived it, she acted it, and now it's on us."

In an O magazine interview in 2004, Rowlands called The Notebook “a tough but wonderful movie” because her mother, Lady, also had Alzheimer’s. “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,” she said at the time. 

<p>New Line/courtesy Everett</p> James Garner and Gena Rowlands in 'The Notebook' (2004)

New Line/courtesy Everett

James Garner and Gena Rowlands in 'The Notebook' (2004)

Rowlands is a two-time Oscar nominee — for 1974's A Woman Under the Influence and 1980's Gloria — and recipient of an honorary Oscar in 2015.

Following its screen adaptation, The Notebook was also adapted into a Broadway musical by singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson. It is now playing at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre.

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