The Reagans came under attack after The New York Times reported that it portrayed Reagan (James Brolin) as detached and Nancy (Judy Davis) as a control freak. Conservative critics, including Reagan's son Michael, were incensed by a scene—later cut—that depicted the President dismissing AIDS patients with the line, "They that live in sin shall die in sin." Michael also took issue with scenes that reportedly showed his father as forgetful.
"To [imply] that my dad had Alzheimer's while he was President is despicable," he says. Also drawing fire: casting Brolin, husband of liberal Barbra Streisand. "There was never any political intent," says Jeff Wald, Brolin's manager. "Barbra never read the script."
And there was the timing. "He's in his ninth year of Alzheimer's," says friend Merv Griffin of Reagan, now 92. "There she sits, holding his hand. To have a movie trash them is cruel." After trying to recut The Reagans, CBS finally punted. "This decision," read a network statement, "is based solely on our reaction to seeing the final film, not the controversy that erupted." It's a decision that left neither side happy. "It's still a lousy movie, whether it's on Showtime or no-time," says Michael Reagan. Meanwhile Brolin, says Wald, is disappointed to be relegated to cable. Of the critics, he says, "They should make their own movie."