"The Notebook" Director Nick Cassavetes Revealed That Gena Rowlands Has Had Alzheimer's For Five Years

Gena Rowlands is an acting legend. The 94-year-old star's unbeatable career stretches across six decades, with multiple Oscar nominations as well as roles in many classic films.

Gena Rowlands on the red carpet wearing a dark outfit with a sheer scarf adorned with gold detailing and beads. She has light hair and is smiling
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If you're of a certain age, it's quite possible one of the first times you saw Gena on the silver screen was in the 2004 blockbuster romantic drama The Notebook, which was adapted from the book of the same name by Nicholas Sparks.

James Garner reads a book while sitting on a bench with Gena Rowlands, who is wearing a shawl. They are in front of a house in a scene from The Notebook
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In the film, Gena portrayed the older version of Allie, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease. (Rachel McAdams, as you well know, played Allie's younger version.)

Closeup of Gena Rowlands as Allie sitting outside

The Notebook was also directed by Gena's son Nick Cassavetes. His father was late actor and legendary filmmaker John Cassavetes, who also made several films with Gena like A Woman Under the Influence and Gloria.

Closeup of Nick Cassavetes
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In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Nick revealed that Gena has also been battling Alzheimer's for the last five years.

Gena Rowlands holding an Oscar at the podium
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"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," Nick told the publication. "And now, for the last five years, she's had Alzheimer's."

Nick Cassavates and his mother Gena Rowlands on the set of "The Notebook"
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"She's in full dementia. And it's so crazy — we lived it, she acted it, and now it's on us."

James Garner and Gena Rowlands as Noah and Allie in "The Notebook"
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As EW points out, Gena's mother also suffered from Alzheimer's later in life — and in a 2004 interview with O magazine, she reflected on her role in The Notebook in light of her family history.

Closeup of Gena Rowlands
Steve Granitz / WireImage

"This last one — The Notebook, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks — was particularly hard because I play a character who has Alzheimer's," she said. "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."

Closeup of Gena Rowlands speaking at a podium
Tommaso Boddi / WireImage

"It was a tough but wonderful movie."

James Garner and Gena Rowlands as Noah and Allie in "The Notebook" sitting on a bench in front of a lake. Noah is reading to Allie
New Line Cinema / ©New Line Cinema/Courtesy Everett Collection

You can read the entire interview with Nick here.