Michael J. Fox Not Taking Roles With Long Dialogue Because of Memory Struggles Amid Parkinson's Battle

The beloved actor says he 'can't remember five pages of dialogue' anymore.

Michael J. Fox's memory is not what it once was, but the beloved actor has come to terms with the struggle amid his battle with Parkinson's disease.

During a conversation on Mike Birbiglia's podcast Working It Out, the 60-year-old said he's reached the point where his once superb memorizing skills are now failing him, which is affecting the roles he's taking on. Fox recalled a scene in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood where Leonardo DiCaprio's character beats himself up over forgetting his lines. The scene struck a chord with Fox. 

"[DiCaprio] was doing a scene of [a] western show and he couldn't remember his lines," Fox recalled. "He went back in the dressing room, he was screaming at himself, he was like tearing into himself in the mirror, and drinking. Just a mess. And I thought about that, and I thought, 'I don't want to feel that. Am I wrong to feel that? Am I right to feel that?'"

He continued, "But here's what it tells me -- I don't take on something with a lot of lines because I can't do it. And for whatever reason, it just is what it is. I can't remember five pages of dialogue. I can't do it. It can't be done. So I go to the beach."

Fox, who was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disorder in 1991, also recalled a moment of serenity wash over him when he realized memorizing lines didn't come easy to him anymore, but he appreciated how he handled himself.

"When I did the spin-off from Good Wife, which is Good Fight, I couldn't remember the lines," Fox said. "I just had this blank ... I couldn't remember the lines. And it was strange because on Family Ties, [producers] used to give me the script and I'd go, 'I'm in. Mallory, get off the phone.' And I knew it, like an instant. And it continued to be that way for me."

"I have 70 pages of dialogue on a De Palma movie," Fox continued. "And knowing that a hugely expensive steadicam shot depends on me knowing the lines; not a trickle of sweat on my brown. It used to be like that. And I get to this point. I'm on a soundstage in Culver City, and I can't get this line together. It was this legal stuff and I just couldn't get it. But what's really refreshing was I didn't panic. I didn't freak out. I just went, 'Well that's that. Moving on. A key element of this process is memorizing lines, and I can't do it.' And I had done Kiefer's show in Canada, [Designated Survivor]. I had the same problem."

Fox has battled Parkinson's for just over three decades now. He's drastically cut back on acting, but continues to helm The Michael J. Fox Foundation, the Parkinson's research and advocacy organization that has raised more than $1 billion in search for a cure.

Back in October 2021, Fox told ET's Rachel Smith he doesn't spend much time pondering how much he's helped people, bur rather tries to just appreciate the fact that others have felt inspired.

"I don't spend a lot of time on that," the actor said when asked if he realizes how much he's inspired others. "But I am grateful when people express to me that it means something -- [that] means a lot to me. But I don't think about it. I don't get up and go, 'Oh, I'm Mr. Impact!'"

"I've had Parkinson's for 30 years...  I think it's part of my life, it's what and it's who I am and it's a struggle sometimes. I'm not gonna lie, it's really hard to get up and get ready and get out in the world [some days]. There are days that suck," he reflected at the time. "[But there's] just an understanding that I will get through it. At any moment, you have a choice: I cannot get through this moment or I can get through this moment."



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