Michael J. Fox while discussing the Apple TV documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, shared that before he landed his long-running role in soap opera Family Ties, he was extremely close to quitting acting due to lack of jobs and therefore money. An early audition that he had that went badly was for Robert Redford‘s directorial debut Ordinary People, which would go onto win Best Picture.
Fox recalls; “I came close on a couple of movies. Most notably, Ordinary People, but Robert Redford seemed less than impressed by my reading. He spent the audition flossing his teeth. The rejections can be so matter-of-fact that there’s a danger you get numbed by it. I was down to days [before I’d had to quit acting]… I had no money…”
Speaking at an event in 2013, Fox said (via PageSix); “In 1982, I was desperate to have a job in LA. I owed money, and my phone was cut off. I was selling sections of my sectional sofa. I was ready to go back to Canada and pick up nails on my brother’s construction site.”
Fox has also spoken about constantly losing roles to Ferris Bueller’s Matthew Broderick at the time. Famously, Fox was not even initially cast in his most iconic role – as Marty McFly in the best time travel movies, the Back to the Future trilogy. Eric Stoltz got the part and filmed for several weeks before it was decided that he wasn’t right for the role, and Fox got to swoop in and become a Hollywood star.
Timothy Hutton ended up winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the role that Michael J. Fox auditioned for in Ordinary People. He’s the youngest actor to have ever won an Oscar in that category, as he was only 20 at the time. Fox is a more gifted comedian than dramatic actor, so it was probably the best choice. Fox has since had brilliant roles in the likes of comedy series Spin City and in drama series The Good Wife/The Good Fight.
Check out our guide to the best 80s movies.