Gratitude: A Life Lesson
  • Friday, Aug. 11, 2023
Michael J. Fox in "Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie" (photo courtesy of Apple TV+)

In this week’s Chat Room interview, Davis Guggenheim reflects on Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Apple TV+), which last month picked up seven Emmy nominations. That tally included two for Guggenheim who served as director and producer--one for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special, the other for Outstanding Directing for a Documentary/Nonfiction Program.

The remaining Emmy nods for Still spanned cinematography, picture editing, original dramatic score, sound editing and sound mixing categories.

While his dream-like rise from obscurity to stardom turned nightmarish with the diagnosis at 29 that he had Parkinson’s disease, Fox has over the years done much more than just persevere.

The documentary shows his resilience, how he’s maintained a self-deprecating sense of humor, and managed to keep on keeping on--with the love and support of his wife, Tracy Pollan, and their kids. 

His family has provided a steadfast anchor and stability. Fox says that he’s become more present in the moment and still. To attain a stillness while enduring an illness that causes physical tremors reflects in a sense the triumph of the human spirit.

Guggenheim--whose An Inconvenient Truth won the Best Feature Documentary Oscar in 2007--felt a connection to Fox as a person. 

“It was about the way he’s approaching his life,” observed Guggenheim who will turn 60 in November. “We’re about the same age and his experiences were meaningful to me. I don’t have Parkinson’s. But I’m dealing with getting older, facing your mortality. The challenge became how do you make a movie that includes Parkinson’s but wasn’t a sob story, that didn’t fall into those tropes. The key was not to fall into the trap of just another celebrity story--with all the trappings.”

Ultimately, though, Guggenheim’s biggest takeaway or major lesson learned from his experience on the documentary goes back to the resolute soul of its protagonist. “Michael J. Fox has taught me a lot about finding gratitude in my own life,” affirmed Guggenheim. “It’s strange. I’m a lucky person yet feel like I have a darker, negative  outlook on things. I look at Michael who is relentlessly optimistic. He sits on my shoulder now smiling when I get too dark, reminding me how lucky I am.”

Robert Goldrich is a SHOOTonline editor.

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