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Michael J. Fox reminisces about 'Back to the Future' success: 'I was kind of an idiot'

The actor looked back on his days as "a rock star" following the success of the hit film in 1985 and spoke about how Parkinson's has changed his acting.
/ Source: TODAY

Michael J. Fox was one of Hollywood's hottest stars when "Back to the Future" became a smash hit 34 years ago, but looking back on that period he feels like he was "kind of an idiot" at the time.

Fox, 57, opened up to The New York Times Magazine about his days as an '80s movie star and the adjustments he has made in his acting career since being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1992.

Michael J. Fox reminisces about his 'Back to the Future' success
Michael J. Fox says his role as Marty McFly in "Back to the Future" allowed him to live like "a rock star" in the 1980s. Shutterstock

The "Family Ties" star ascended to superstardom in 1985 after playing Marty McFly in the iconic time-travel movie, but it seems like another life to the Canadian actor now.

"It’s a different guy,'' he said. "He’s much closer to the kid I was growing up in Canada. I grew up admiring rock stars like Jimi Hendrix and Jimmy Page. I wanted to be a rock star.

"That’s what I thought being famous was. But I wasn’t a rock star. I was kind of an idiot. I missed the point."

The father of four with his wife of 30 years, Tracy Pollan, feels like his lifestyle off screen back then got in the way of achieving his potential. He was asked what he meant by the fact that he "missed the point."

"That I had talent. That I had gotten where I was because I did something well,'' he said. "I was comfortable with the idea that I had won the lottery, and that made me less respectful of what talent I had.

"I’d be riding in a limo with my head out the sunroof and a beer in each hand, thinking, 'Who expected this success from me?' And so, in a way, Parkinson’s got my head in the game. I realized there are bigger things than being a rock star."

Since going public with his Parkinson's diagnosis in 1998, Fox has become a driving force when it comes to raising awareness and funding to combat the degenerative disorder of the nervous system. He started The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, which has raised $800 million in the fight against Parkinson's disease.

Fox has also continued his acting career despite doctors telling him at the time of his diagnosis that he only had about 10 years left to work before he would be disabled.

He appeared in five episodes of the show "Designated Survivor" last year and also continues to do voice work in movies. Living with Parkinson's forced him to change aspects of his acting.

"For so long — and I make no apologies for it because it served me well — I used a lot of high-level muggery,'' he said. "I could pull a face; I could do a double take. And one of the reasons I left 'Spin City' was that I felt my face hardening. My movements were constricted.

"If you watch episodes from the last couple of seasons, you’ll see I would anchor myself against a desk or the wall. Eventually it was too burdensome. So I left. After a couple of years I was asked to do 'Scrubs.' I don’t think I was very good in it, but I enjoyed being back on set.

"Then I did 'Boston Legal' — I remember the smell of the arclight while we shot,'' he continued. "Something about that smell made me think, acting is what I do. And I needed to find a way to do it with my new instrument. Ultimately I found that the 'less is more' philosophy works for me. Which is convenient because I have less. More is more — I’d be out of business."