Michael J. Fox Didn’t Want Veto Power on His Doc: “Just Go Shoot the Movie”
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie scored a huge standing ovation when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday. As befits its title, the documentary goes deep into the life and legacy of its titular subject, the celebrated actor, author and activist who starred as Marty McFly in the iconic Back to the Future trilogy. Fox stopped by The Hollywood Reporter Sundance Studio (presented by Heineken Silver and Origin Spring Water) with the film’s director Davis Guggenheim and editor Michael Harte to discuss bringing his story to the big screen.
Often, with celebrity documentaries, the film’s subject will have final say in what does or does not make it into the movie’s final cut, leading to projects that perhaps gloss over more complicated components of a person’s life. For Fox, the idea of censoring the film’s source material was absolutely out of the question.
“I was surprised, pretty early on, [the legal team] came to me and they said, ‘You can put in the contract that you have three things you can strike.’ And I said, ‘No! Just go shoot the movie. Make the movie. It’s not a movie about me getting three things that you can’t say about me. It’s a movie about my life, and if we’re going to be real about it, let the filmmakers have access to that.’”
Total creative freedom proved to be a dream for director Guggenheim, who explains, “Michael generously gave me final cut” and also effused that “Nothing was off the table.”
Still, that didn’t mean creating a film about Michael J. Fox without his input. Editor Harte says: “We welcomed Michael into the edit process because he’s made amazing films and worked with amazing directors like [Steven] Spielberg and [Robert] Zemeckis. So, he knows how to make a good movie and can tell a story, understands beats. So, normally I don’t want anyone in the edit suite. But we loved having Mike, just watching it. He’s a master filmmaker and storyteller.”
It’s not the first time Fox, who has been very open about his diagnosis with Parkinson’s Disease, has made art out of his life story. At the end of the Sundance interview, he joked: “Everyone has one good book in them about their life. I wrote four.”