“I find that what’s universally human is usually universally funny”: Michael J Fox and Davis Guggenheim on Still – A Michael J Fox Movie
Michael J Fox is a familiar figure who has dominated people’s screens with plenty of memorable work, from his time in the 80s hit show Family Ties – where he met his now wife, Tracy Pollan – to iconic roles such as Marty McFly in Back to the Future and Stuart in Stuart Little. Still, despite the onslaught of success with film after film, not everything is rainbows and roses for Fox. The majority of his career in the 90s was spent keeping a dark and heavy secret from his fans. It wasn’t until 1998 that the actor came clean about his struggle with Parkinson’s disease. Now, at 61 years of age, he pries open old wounds with director Davis Guggenheim in the new Apple TV+ film documentary, Still: A Michael J Fox Movie. In it, he explores living with Parkinson’s, on and off-camera, the idea of losing himself to his career and illness, and the support system he has acquired over the years.
The feature is a multimedia mix of Fox and his work. It takes excerpts from his memoirs and books – narrated by the man himself – and uses shots from his filmography to create a timeline of events. All of this is aided by archival footage of old interviews, his conversation with Guggenheim, and a behind-the-scenes look into his day-to-day life, from family dinners to doctor appointments and therapy sessions. The feature also splices in reenactments of the most polarising moments in Fox’s life. Guggenheim (known for documentaries such as Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates and He Named Me Malala) claims he wanted to “make a documentary that feels like an 80s movie”.
The global press conference for Still: A Michael J Fox Movie sees both Fox and Guggenheim sit down to answer several preselected questions regarding the film. It’s obvious through their on-screen interaction how close the two have become over the course of making the movie. They discuss the importance of laughter in the face of tragedy, moments in time they wish to go back to, and everything the filmmaker has learned from the star.
Guggenheim credits Fox for the film’s success, having been provided with a buffet of content not just from the interview itself, but also through his books and the hundreds of clips and footage from the actor’s filmography. More importantly, he makes it very clear that the tone of the film – its comedic and energetic quality contrasting against the heavy subject matter – is down to Fox and his ability to make people laugh: “Michael’s funny and it’s fun to watch… You think laughter is frivolous, but I think, sometimes, laughter reveals something deeper.”
“It’s a little more of a challenge – but much more rewarding – to find out what’s universally human. I find that what’s universally human is usually universally funny,” Fox says.
Throughout the press conference, Guggenheim sings his praises in all different aspects: his talent on-screen and his humility. The latter is evident when the discussion of time travel is brought up and Fox discusses moments in time he might like to go back to. He references the instance his father gave him the OK to pursue acting: “He could’ve said, ‘No, I’m shutting that down, I’m blocking all your paths to that, and I’m going to make your life miserable.’ He could’ve done that, but he said, ‘OK, give it a shot.’ He died young, just a couple of years after all the good things happened to me. The fact that he got to see it was just [great].”
“Isn’t it incredible that you’re a movie star and all these amazing things happened to you, and the things that you want to go back to see are moments with your father?” the director points out.
The rest is dominated by Guggenheim expressing all the things he has learned from and about Fox: “Michael’s full of optimism. It’s in the movie; [he] had a lot of falls and [he] was in a lot of pain. But his attitude is to see the brighter side of things. That part is infectious. I think it’s [also] not to take myself too seriously. To really value this moment – when you have a story that’s this special, to just really enjoy it, you know?”
Still: A Michael J Fox Movie is released on Apple TV+ on 12th May 2023. Read our review here.
Watch the trailer for Still: A Michael J Fox Movie here: