Gena Rowlands has been privately battling Alzheimer’s disease. 

The Notebook alum—who played the older version of Rachel McAdams‘ character Allie, who in the film is also suffering from dementia—was first diagnosed with the disease five years ago at the age of 88, her son and the film’s director Nick Cassavetes recently shared.

“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,” Nick—the oldest of Gina and the late John Cassavetes three kids—told Entertainment Weekly in an article published June 25. “She’s in full dementia. And it’s so crazy—we lived it, she acted it, and now it’s on us.”

Gena, now 93, has previously reflected on how her mother Lady Rowlands‘ own journey with Alzheimer’s affected her decision to take on the role. 

The Notebook was particularly hard because I play a character who has Alzheimer’s,” she told O Magazine in 2004. “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. It was a tough but wonderful movie.”

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