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Michael J. Fox Takes Control of the Narrative in New Documentary Film

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Presented as an interview and told through both archival and scripted elements, “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” is about owning your narrative, which often is difficult for disabled individuals to do. All too often, society determines the worth of an individual based on preconceived notions. Even when the most successful people acquire a disability, society is quick to judge and make assumptions that they are now less than.

This led Michael J. Fox to hide his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, which he received at 29 years of age (younger than most), for seven years. He would mask trembling by twiddling with an object in his left hand and timed his pills, popping them “like Halloween Smarties” to have the most effect when he was working.

“Therapeutic value, comfort – none of these were the reason I took these pills. There was only one reason: to hide,” Fox says in the documentary. “I became a virtuoso of manipulating drug intake so that I’d peak at exactly the right time and place.”

But Fox, now 61 and actively working through the Michael J. Fox Foundation to find a cure for Parkinson’s, also said, “If you pity me, it’s never going to get to me … I’m a tough son of a bitch. I’m a cockroach.”

“I realized I didn’t have to do anything other than be myself,” Fox says in the documentary. “I was still me, people recognized. Just me plus Parkinson’s.”

Fox went on to authentically represent chronic illness in shows such as “The Good Wife,” defying common tropes associated with disabled people on screen. “Some people would view the news of my disease as an ending,” Fox says in the documentary. “But I was starting to sense that it was really a beginning.”

“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” premiered at Sundance Film Festival on Friday, January 20. It was directed by Oscar winning filmmaker David Guggenheim, who asked Fox insightful questions, allowing Fox to share more about living with Parkinson’s, including the constant pain.

When asked about pain and why he did not share before being asked, Fox says he is in intense pain, but it is not something he brings up all the time. “I’m not gonna lead with it.” He takes some medication to help subdue the effects of Parkinson’s, telling Guggenheim he is “waiting for the bus,” i.e., waiting for it to work.

He also shares that due to Parkinson’s, he does fall a lot, something his family worries about. But he says this in a matter of a fact way, simply stating “gravity is real.” There is no sense of pity for himself from either Fox or Guggenheim.

“I wanted to be in the world and not take this and retreat from the world,” Fox says in the film.

“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” will be released on Apple TV+ later this year.

Image from via New Mexico Entertainment’s YouTube

Originally published: February 2, 2023
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