Michael J. Fox no longer accepts roles with a lot of text. “I can’t. It’s not possible,” explains the actor.
Michael J. Fox (60, “Back to the Future”) no longer accepts roles for which he has to memorize a lot of text. The US actor, who celebrated his breakthrough in the 1980s and announced his retirement in 2020, spoke about this in the “Mike Birbiglias Working It Out” podcast. “I don’t take roles with a lot of text because I can’t play them […] It’s just the way it is,” he explained. “I can’t remember five pages of dialogue. I can’t. It’s not possible.” After struggling to film two different projects, he became more selective about his roles.
The experience was “strange” after he’s always been able to pick up a script and recite the lines throughout his career. For example, on the series “Family Ties,” Fox said, “I was given the script and […] I knew the lines straight away and that’s how it stayed for me. I had 70 pages of dialogue in a Brian De Palma film [‘The Damned of War’], and even though I knew that a very expensive steadicam shot depended on knowing the lyrics, I didn’t break out in a sweat,” he recalled.
Two shootings caused a rethink
But then, during the filming of the CBS spin-off The Good Fight, problems arose. “When I was shooting The Good Wife spin-off, The Good Fight, I couldn’t remember the lyrics. I just had this emptiness, I couldn’t remember the lyrics,” the actor said .
It was the “same problem” he had filming in Canada for Kiefer Sutherland’s (55) series Designated Survivor. But while another might have panicked, he kept a cool head. “It was about this legal stuff and I just couldn’t understand it,” Fox recalled. “But what was really refreshing is that I didn’t panic. I didn’t freak out. I just said, ‘Well, that’s it. Let’s move on. A key part of acting is memorizing lines, and I can’t do that .'”
And a film in which he didn’t even act gave Fox an important insight. He said a similar moment in “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” got him thinking about how to respond and how not to respond to the lyrical issues of filming. The scene was about Leonardo DiCaprio’s (47) character Rick Dalton, who forgot a sentence while filming the fictional pilot episode of “Lancer”. “He went back into the dressing room and yelled at himself – he shredded himself in front of the mirror and drank. It was a disaster,” Fox said. “And I thought about it and decided to myself, ‘I don’t want to feel that.’