Michael J. Fox: What a guy


“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” comes to the M.V. Film Center on Friday, May 12. This documentary tells the tale of the remarkably popular and vibrant actor who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 29. Parkinson’s is a chronic degenerative illness that affects the motor system, leaving the patient with tremors, and leading to falls and trouble walking.

The film begins with a fictional episode of Fox waking up hungover, and showing the first Parkinson’s symptoms, including a little pinky problem. From there, Fox describes his life primarily through interviews, as well as archival footage and excerpts from his many popular films.

Born in Edmonton, Canada, Fox was small in size, and as a result he describes himself as never still. In fact, once he was cast as five years younger than his actual age because of his size.

His father went with him on early Hollywood casting calls, telling him, “If you’re gonna be a lumberjack, you better be in the forest.” He received regular callbacks, including one which led to an offer of a seven-figure salary, but no money materialized. In an example of his early success, his producer decided he was too short, and claimed he’d never be on a lunchbox; later Fox gave him a lunchbox emblazoned with his face.

His career was launched with the ’70s sitcom “Family Ties,” where he met his wife, Tracy Pollan. Among his big successes was “Back to the Future,” and that trilogy led Fox to be one of Hollywood’s most popular actors. His films earned him No. 1 at the box office.

So successful were his film performances that he became a teen idol, appearing on the covers of GQ, People, and Esquire magazines, to name a few. He describes his cinematic success by the cars he owned, including a Ferrari, which he once drove at 90 miles an hour. It led to a stop by an officer, who luckily recognized him and let him go with a warning.

Fox won five primetime Emmys for “Family Ties,” four Golden Globes, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a Grammy. He also earned a place on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2002.

From such episodes and successes, the film shifts to his Parkinson’s diagnosis in 1991, which he kept secret until 1998. The viewer sees him working with a physical therapist who encourages him to slow down. He suffered multiple fractures of his hands and arms, from falls and the motor problems caused by Parkinson’s disease. Four other members of the cast and crew in the film have been diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s.

Once he went public with his diagnosis, Fox turned his acting success into advocacy for a Parkinson’s cure, followed by formation of the Michael J. Fox Foundation in 2000 to help fund Parkinson’s research. His last major role was in the “Michael J. Fox Show.”

He wrote four books, including “Lucky Man: A Memoir” “Always Looking Up,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future,” and “No Time Like the Future.”

“I’m not gonna lie. It’s getting harder. Every day it’s tougher,” he said in an interview with Jane Pauley on “CBS Sunday Morning.”

Information and tickets for “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie,” are available at mvfilmsociety.com