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Heston Cheered by Well Wishers

August 18, 2002

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Charlton Heston says he was overwhelmed by the concern _ including calls from President Bush and former first lady Nancy Reagan _ after his announcement that he has symptoms consistent with Alzheimer’s disease.

In his first interview since the Aug. 9 videotaped announcement, the Oscar-winning Heston said a telephone call from Bush last week meant ``a great deal.″

``He wished me well and was proud of what I had done for my country,″ the actor told the Los Angeles Times in the interview published Sunday. ``Which is, perhaps, overstating it a little.″

Heston said he’s also gotten calls from Sarah Brady, chairwoman of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and Nancy Reagan, whose husband, former President Reagan, suffers from the degenerative brain disease.

Nancy Reagan gave Heston and his wife, Lydia, her private phone number and encouraged them to call.

``She talked to Lydia and to me, and it was really a nice thing for her to have done,″ said Heston, 77. ``She didn’t really need to do that. After all, she’s the president’s wife.″

Heston said he has no plans to retire from acting. ``I feel the way I have been always feeling,″ he said. ``Now, I understand the chances are very slim that they will remain that way.″

Heston, who won a best-actor Oscar for ``Ben-Hur,″ said he has a movie project this fall but was reluctant to discuss it. The president of the National Rifle Association since 1998 also said he’ll campaign this fall for candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, who share his beliefs.

When asked what he meant when he said in his announcement that he was facing the future with courage and surrender, Heston said: ``Sooner or later, the man with the scythe comes along and says ’It’s time.‴

When that time comes, Heston said he would like to say: ``OK. I had a great run.″

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