Michael J. Fox plans ‘second retirement’ as health declines. More revelations from his book
On the Shelf
No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality
By Michael J. Fox
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When Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 29, already a major movie and TV star (“Family Ties,” “Back to the Future”), a doctor told him he would be lucky to work for 10 more years.
Thirty years and eight Emmy nominations (including a 2009 win) later, the joke’s on that guy.
But the optimism that carried Fox along even as his body betrayed him — and fueled three hopeful memoirs, beginning with “Lucky Man” in 2002 — has given way to a more sober and realistic vision in his latest book, “No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality.” Part of that realism is the revelation, to himself and his fans, that his acting career is coming to an end.
“There is a time for everything, and my time of putting in a twelve-hour workday, and memorizing seven pages of dialogue, is best behind me,” Fox writes in the book, which is out Tuesday.
He continues, “At least for now ... I enter a second retirement. That could change, because everything changes. But if this is the end of my acting career, so be it.”
Here are some other takeaways from Fox’s fourth memoir.
Some Trump digs
Among several comments on our slowly departing president, Fox describes his struggle with Parkinson’s in terms of every physical movement being a “negotiation in my mind between Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi.”
His past struggles with sobriety
Fox describes the early years with his first son, Sam, as “Miller Time.” Looking back on it, Sam “tells me that his earliest memories include going to the fridge to get me beers.” Fox quit drinking when Sam was 3 and has been sober ever since.
Memory loss and delusions
Like many Parkinson’s patients, Fox has begun to notice cognitive changes, including memory loss, confusion, delusions and dementia — something he has “rarely contemplated before now, much less spoke of.” He describes looking for his car keys before remembering he can no longer drive; mistaking one of his twin daughters for the other and uttering, “What did you think?” to “the person to my left, who isn’t there.”
A missed gig with a Hollywood ending
The day Fox was set to film a cameo in the 2019 Spike Lee-produced movie “See You Yesterday,” he had a serious fall — only four months after a critical surgery to remove a tumor from his spine (unrelated to Parkinson’s). But Netflix offered a “Hollywood ending,” funding a pick-up day to return to set about six months later, reassembling the cast and crew and belatedly completing Fox’s scene.
Keith Richards and more famous friends
Even big-shot actors get starstruck. Fox rang in New Year’s Day 2018 next to Keith Richards, “swashbuckling pirate king, immortal rock god, and Rolling freaking Stone ... I’m not worthy.” Adorned with a massive skull ring, cocktail in his hand, Richards and Fox (virgin piña colada in hand) enjoyed the fireworks show together at a Turks and Caicos resort.
Unfortunately, Fox was dealing at the time with an excruciatingly painful pinched sciatic nerve and had to cut the trip short. “Oh god, Keith Richards looks better than I feel,” he thought.
Fox also writes at length about hitting the links with his golfing buddies, author Harlan Coben and ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos; hanging out with former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.); and working with the likes of Larry David.
Keith Richards on his X-Pensive Winos reissue, a new Rolling Stones album and living in American during COVID.
His binge-watches may surprise you
You can count Fox among the legion of fans who find comfort in “Great British Baking Show.” The actor also enjoys “Peaky Blinders,” “Escape at Dannemora,” cable news and old game shows he acknowledges are “politically incorrect.”
Watching vintage TV, Fox "[slips] into another reality. It’s one of the million iterations of time travel — to visit a world that’s pre-me ... Just like the performers in these old shows, someday I will survive myself in reruns.”
Love and family ties
Fox is “quietly impressed” that he and Tracy Pollan have passed their 30th anniversary, decades after first meeting on the NBC sitcom “Family Ties.”
“She’s not always a rock, but that’s okay,” he writes. “Rocks are solid, stubborn, and immovable. That’s me. Tracy, on the other hand, has learned to keep the rock rolling.”
Not so happy days on ‘The Michael J. Fox Show’
Fox has some choice words for NBC, which picked up one season of “The Michael J. Fox Show” from 2013-2014: “I think Parkinson’s freaked them out, which was problematic, because it was the premise of the show.” He considers it a “grievous mistake” that he did not involve his longtime producing partner Nelle Fortenberry, who helped him write this book by transcribing dictation.
Ultimately, he takes responsibility for the show’s failures. He didn’t have “the focus or the bandwidth to administer the life support the show would need to make it. That’s on me, and I’m fine with that.”
Michael J. Fox: Can he really come back with new NBC comedy?
He took inspiration from Quentin Tarantino
When it comes to Fox’s declining health and independence, he feels a connection with Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood,” “one of my favorite films by one of my favorite directors.”
He writes, “DiCaprio, playing a cowboy actor who’s seen better days, keeps screwing up his lines ... Furious at himself over his chronic inability to remember and deliver the dialogue... [he] berates himself viciously over his abject failure. I feel his pain. I’ve obviously been there.
“But weighed against everything else in my life, I don’t find it worthy of self-excoriation ... My work as an actor does not define me.”
Despite several setbacks and scares, Fox remains committed to advice his late father-in-law Stephen Pollan gave him, “With gratitude, optimism becomes sustainable.”
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