Michael J Fox has spoken candidly about how he struggled with his Parkinson’s diagnosis, admitting the disease drove him to abuse alcohol.
The 61-year-old actor said he would also take dopamine pills during the early years in the hope of hiding his symptoms.
Michael was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the height of his fame, when he was just 29 years old. While he was diagnosed in 1991, the Hollywood star decided not to go public with his illness until seven years later in 1998.
In his new documentary Still: A Michael J Fox Movie, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, Michael discussed the impact of his diagnosis.
“I was the Prince of Hollywood,” he said in the film.
He revealed that when the doctor informed him he had Parkinson’s, Michael said: “You know who you’re talking to, right? I’m not supposed to get this.”
He added: “You think [life’s] made of brick and rock. But it’s not. It’s made out of paper and feathers. It’s an illusion.”
The Back to the Future star first realized something was wrong following a night out in 1990, when he woke up with a twitching little finger.
He visited a neurologist the following year after the movements didn’t stop and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
In the years that followed, he sought solace in alcohol. In the documentary, Michael admits he “drank to dissociate”.
He added that he took dopamine pills and held props in his left hand while on set to hide his shaking.
“I was definitely an alcoholic. But I’ve gone 30 years without having a drink,” he said.
In his new documentary, Michael works with a trainer to build his strength and stability, but during the course of filming he falls repeatedly.
During filming, the star broke bones in his left cheek, his hand, his arm and dislocated his shoulder.
He said it annoys him when people say to be careful: “This has nothing to do with being careful. This happens. You get Parkinson’s, you trip over stuff.”
Michael retired from acting in 2020 and is now writing books about his experience. He also funds research in Parkinson’s through his Michael J. Fox Foundation.