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Michael J. Fox on retiring from acting, embracing optimism, and re-discovering what people love about ‘Back to the Future’

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AARP The Magazine

Michael J. Fox covers the December-January issue of AARP the Magazine, as the now-60-year-old actor-turned activist nears the 30-year anniversary of his Parkinson’s diagnosis.

As previously reported, Fox underwent surgery in 2018 to have a benign tumor removed from around his spinal cord. During his recovery, he fell at home, crushing the bones in his left arm and requiring extensive surgery. 

That episode led him into “darkness” — and then out the other side. “I started to notice things I was grateful for…I concluded that gratitude makes optimism sustainable,” he tells the magazine.

Fox officially retired from acting in 2020. “When…I reached the point where I couldn’t rely on my ability to speak on any given day, which meant I couldn’t act comfortably at all anymore. So, last year I gave it up,” he says.

The actor remains a tireless advocate for Parkinson’s research, through his eponymous foundation. “We created what has become this giant network of patients, scientists and institutions. We’ve put more than a billion dollars into it…” he says. 

About seeing a cure in his lifetime, Fox says he’s “blunt”: “I’m 60 years old, and science is hard. So, no.”

That still hasn’t dampened his optimism, however. Fox said watching, of all things, the fan-favorite Back to the Future, also taught him to lighten up.

“…I came across it on TV last Christmas. And I thought I was really good in it, better than I thought I’d been. More important, I got the spirit of the movie. I understood…that we all need…to take credit for what we’ve done and the lives we’ve touched and to occasionally step back a bit and appreciate that much of life has been great and that there’s a lot more to live.”

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