For many years, Michael J. Fox has been a favorite actor of people all around the world. In his legendary performance as Marty McFly, he first appeared on screens and won the hearts of the general public.
For the past few years, the actor has struggled with some health challenges. Since he has always been honest about his struggles, he is now discussing how Parkinson’s disease has damaged his acting career.
When Michael J. Fox received the tragic news that he had Parkinson’s Disease, he was just 29 years old. He was at the height of his acting career and knew that despite his diagnosis, he would not give up acting.
He chose, instead, to incorporate his diagnoses into his roles. He portrayed an OCD doctor on the television series House in 2004. He also portrayed Louis Canning in The Good Wife, a lawyer who utilized his neurological disorder to influence juries on his advantage.
But today as he passes 60 years old, the actor acknowledges that it is getting harder and harder for him to perform. He admitted that he was finding it harder and harder to manage memorizing lines.
“When I did the spinoff from The Good Wife, which is The Good Fight, I couldn’t remember the lines. I just had this blank, I couldn’t remember the lines,” he recently said on the Working It Out podcast.
He used to be able to recall lines in a matter of seconds, but now it is nearly impossible for him to do so due to the memory loss caused by his sickness, which has made it difficult for him to perform as an actor.
He recalled days when memorizing lines had been second nature to the actor. He said, “I knew it, like in an instant, and it continued to be that way for me. I[’d] have 70 pages of dialogue on a [Brian] De Palma movie, and knowing that a hugely expensive Steadicam shot depends on me knowing the lines—not a trickle of sweat on my brow.”
He no longer takes roles that require too many lines to be memorized. He said, “I can’t remember five pages of dialogue. I can’t do it.” But he has taken this in stride, knowing there is not much he can do about it.
A few years ago, the actor admitted that he started to trip and fall uncontrollably. Even while he was aware that Parkinson’s disease might have had a role, the actor soon realized something else was going on with his body.
Fox has experienced recurrent spinal cord issues, but physicians assured him that it wasn’t a life-threatening issue. Having said that, it was made obvious that if he did nothing, it would have an impact on his life.
He said: “I was told it was benign but if it stayed static I would have diminished feeling in my legs and difficulty moving. Then all of a sudden I started falling – a lot. It was getting ridiculous. I was trying to parse what was Parkinson’s and what was the spinal thing. But it came to the point where it was probably necessary to have surgery.”
Fox underwent surgery on his spinal cord a few years ago, then embarked on a period of intense physical therapy. Unfortunately, though, his problems didn’t end there.
“I did it all,” he said, “and eventually people asked me to do some acting. Last August I was supposed to go to work. I woke up, walked into the kitchen to get breakfast, misstepped and I went down. I fractured the hell out of my arm. I ended up getting 19 pins and a plate. It was such a blow.”
“I do think the more unexpected something is, the more there is to learn from it. In my case, what was it that made me skip down the hallway to the kitchen thinking I was fine when I’d been in a wheelchair six months earlier? It’s because I had certain optimistic expectations of myself, and I’d had results to bear out those expectations, but I’d had failures too. And I hadn’t given the failures equal weight.”
He has been writing a lot since his diagnosis. He released his fourth memoir, No Time Like the Future. His foray into writing was simple, the actor said, “My guitar playing is no good. My sketching is no good anymore, my dancing never was good and acting is getting tougher to do. So it’s down to writing. Luckily, I really enjoy it.”
The actor has never let his disease get him down. He founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which has till now raised over $1 billion in an effort to find a cure!
The actor has repeatedly talked about his optimism, saying, he told AARP, “If you can find something to be grateful for, then optimism is sustainable. At 60, I just feel like, in spite of this thing I carry every day, I love my life, I love my wife, I love my kids … Parkinson’s is just this thing that’s attached to my life. It isn’t the driver … I’m really lucky, and I try to spread that luck around.”
The actor recently made headlines once more when he reconnected with Christopher Lloyd, his Back to the Future trilogy co-star. They did a panel at an event and they spoke about how the principal photography had already taken place for Back to the Future when Fox was recruited to play Marty McFly.
“The announcement — at one o’ clock in the morning after we were shooting for six weeks — was that the actor playing Marty would no longer be playing Marty, and that tomorrow, we would start shooting with Michael,” Lloyd recalled, according to SyFy.
“I felt that I barely made it through the [first] six weeks and now I was gonna have to do it again?!”
Although Fox’s mother was initially concerned about his prior commitment to Family Ties, Fox accepted the role.
“The chemistry was there from the first scene we had, it was alive, and it remained that way for three movies,” Lloyd said. “It hasn’t gone away, by the way.”
During the panel at NYCC, Fox briefly spoke about his Parkinson’s diagnosis.
“You guys have given me my whole life,” he said.
The actor was diagnosed in 1991 and went public with his diagnosis in 1998. In 2000, he established the Michael J. Fox Foundation, whose goal is to discover a treatment for the illness. The Parkinson’s disease nonprofit receives the most funding overall.
“The best thing thing that happened in my life was this thing. Parkinson’s is a gift. I’ve said to people it’s a gift and they say, ‘You’re nuts.’ I say, ‘Yeah, but it’s the gift that keeps on taking.’ But it’s a gift and I wouldn’t change it for anything … It’s not about what I have, it’s about what I’ve been given.”
The actor was observed stumbling as he entered the stage at his most recent public engagement at the New York Comic Con due to his Parkinson’s diagnosis. Fans in the audience clapped for the actor as he struggled to enter the stage due to earthquakes. Everyone was overjoyed to see the adored actor again after such a lengthy absence.
Even if the actor has a thick skin from years of experience, there are occasions when he does not ignore insults. He does not frequently get them, but occasionally trolls attack him. He related a time when he received a cruel comment online and, rather than ignoring it, decided to respond to it.
He reached out to his 33-year-old son Sam for help in this matter. His son advised his father to “Do SMH,” in this instance. When he asked what “SMH” even meant, his son told his father to trust him. The older actor did that and found the reply from the troll hilarious.
The three letters were enough to turn the troll into a fan. Fox recalled that the troll replied with “He answers me back ‘That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever read in my life. You’re the king of the internet. I apologize for anything I said to you,’ blah blah blah.”
When he questioned his kid about what his father had written that made the troll become a fan so soon, the boy explained the meaning of the acronym, “shaking my head.”
Although though Michael J. Fox is shown as an upbeat person with a lot of sympathy, there is a limit to how much he can take of insults. It’s fortunate that he has kids who can keep him on his toes when it comes to comebacks.
Michael J. Fox is without a doubt one of the most inspirational people around. We wish him luck in his fight against Parkinson’s disease as well as his initiatives to increase public awareness of it.
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