Here's a little something else about that movie about Ronald Reagan that is not going to get made:
McKay found himself in the middle of a truly bizarre nontroversy recently when the Gary Sanchez-produced Reagan, a film project rumored to star Will Ferrell as the late Republican commander-in-chief as he struggles with the effects of Alzheimer’s during his second term, came under heavy fire from conservatives—including members of Reagan’s own family—for allegedly mocking the oft-heralded politician.
The problem? Nobody really knew if the film was going to mock Reagan for his illness. Outlets simply saw Ferrell as a rumored candidate for the role and their imaginations ran amok.
“I’ve never been that close to a story like that where so little information became such a tidal wave. It was really crazy to behold,” says McKay. “People hadn’t even read the script, it was just three words: ‘Reagan, Ferrell, Alzheimer’s,’ and it became this huge thing. Finally, The Hollywood Reporter wrote a piece where they actually read the script and thought it was a really thoughtful script and tender towards Reagan, but yeah, it’s this culture we live in. It’s all about clicks, clicks, clicks, and hits, hits, hits.”
“I kept saying when that story snowballed, ‘Is there anyone who really thinks Will Ferrell would make a comedy about a horrible disease like Alzheimer’s?’ In a million years no one would do that!” he continues. “You’d have people on the left and right coming after you. I think it’s more about the deification of Ronald Reagan, where you can’t go near the subject of Ronald Reagan. Remember all the brouhaha over that Reagan miniseries? That miniseries was so soft, but nobody wants to hear anything near the reality of Reagan’s eight years as president.”
Now, no one should try to advise Adam McKay or Will Ferrell about which movies they should make when, clearly, this should have been a Russell Brand and Sacha Baron Cohen buddy flick all along. Whoever owns the rights to this story should have submitted the idea and the script to Patti Davis first. That way, she could have taken some points on the back end and given you the green light.
Patti Davis made a very astute and public relations-savvy condemnation appear to be wholly sympathetic when she denounced the project, which, as others have pointed out, is sympathetic and sensitive to the topic of Alzheimer's while telling a very compelling story. The fact that it involved Reagan and a period of time when he was carrying a gun around in a briefcase and had access to the nation's nuclear codes is something no one polite should ever bring up, okay?
From now on, anyone who references the fact that Reagan spent several years as president while suffering from Alzheimer's needs to go see Patti beforehand. Historians, you have been warned.