An Interview with Michael J. Fox

What's Michael J. Fox's recipe for happiness? Leave the past behind and live in the moment.

By Amy Wallace from Reader's Digest | May 2010

RD: You’ve been open about the fact that after you were diagnosed with Parkinson’s, you sought to drink yourself into “a place of indifference.” You describe your first years of sobriety as being “like a knife fight in a closet.” Is being sober still a struggle?
MJF: I want to be really careful not to violate some of the principles by which I became sober. I wouldn’t say it’s a struggle. I’d rather drink battery acid than have a beer right now. But I would say that I picked up tools that helped me with Parkinson’s. And I say in this new book: There’s no better lesson in loss of control than to have Parkinson’s. Because you learn very quickly what you can control and what you can’t control. The only answer is to accept it. I do practice those principles every day: acceptance and gratitude.

RD: One of the bravest things you’ve done in your advocacy is to reveal your own symptoms, once even forgoing medication before you addressed a Senate subcommittee. Some people criticized you for that.
MJF: I couldn’t understand the backlash. I thought, Wait a minute—I have some kind of public obligation to hide my essential being? In the years since, I’ve come to realize that when I’m symptom-free on the medication, that’s not my natural state. My natural state is trembling and halting and having difficulty talking. So I enjoy the reprieve, but I’m not fooled by it. And if I’m in public and I am symptomatic, it has no bearing on who I am or what I’m trying to get done. Not to get too Zen about it, but if I stand apart from the moment and say, “In this moment, I’m struggling and I can’t do what I want to do,” not only have I not had a good moment, I’ve missed the moment completely, just by standing outside it and judging it.

RD: Sounds like that’s your central organizing principle.
MJF: To return to marriage, it’s about judgment. The least amount of judging we can do, the better off we are.

Movies vs. Books

By Michael J. Fox from A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future

Which was better? Here’s my assessment of five big books as compared to their screen versions:

1. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972. Based on the book by Mario Puzo, 1969.)
While Mario Puzo’s florid pulp epic, rendered with verve and velocity, is the kind of thing I might busy myself with on vacation, it doesn’t measure up to the Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece it inspired. Characters that are clichéd on the page mesmerize on the screen thanks to the artistry of Brando, Pacino, Duvall and Cazale.

2. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975. Based on the book by Peter Benchley, 1974.)
The novel was a page-turner, but Steven Spielberg’s breakthrough film was a stomach turner. It’s one thing to read about a Great White devouring Captain Quint. It’s a whole different kettle of fish to watch the thing munch on Robert Shaw. In fairness to Peter Benchley, I also prefer John Huston’s retelling of Moby Dick over Melville’s novel.

3. Moby Dick (John Huston, 1956. Based on the book by Herman Melville, 1851.)

4. Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999. Based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk, 1996.)
First rule of fight club… don’t talk about fight club. I will say this, though. Great book. Great movie. Technical draw.

5. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968. Book by Arthur C. Clarke, 1968.)

This is a tricky one. Clarke’s book was actually published after the release of Kubrick’s film, and each man worked on his version concurrent with the other. Visually, the film was stunning and the atmospherics were sensational. But I have to admit, only after reading Clarke’s book was I able to discern a plot. Edge to Arthur C. Clarke. Interesting note: Just recently, I learned from my son, Sam, that HAL, the name given to the film’s mutinous computer, is a play on a familiar acronym. H A L are the three letters that precede IBM in the alphabet.

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