Part of an occasional series? Um…
I don’t know. Maybe.
Lemon slices, anyone?
[Dream from somewhere in the Nineties — high fever. Michael J. Fox comes back to Burnaby, B.C. to see his sister perform in a play, and to take part in a charity auction or something. Working for Cable 4, the community access channel run by Rogers Broadcasting, I manage to secure an interview with him, at the party after the premiere.]
MJF: What’s this for again?
Me: Cable 4. Rogers.
MJF: Used to be Cable 10, didn’t it?
Me: Yeah…long time ago now.
MJF: So there’s, like, what? Twenty people watching?
Me: (laughing) Probably about that.
Me: That was awesome, eh? Boomtown Rats…Siouxsie And The Banshees…
MJF: Rough Trade! Bow Wow Wow!
MJF: That was the guy with the gold head, right? That was bald on one side of his head?
Me: Yeah, “Valid Or Void” was the song.
MJF: “You could be PARANOID…!” That fucking show rocked.
Me: It was, indeed, the best. Thanks for doing this, by the way.
MJF: No problem. No problem.
Me: It must be weird, coming back to Vancouver. Big star.
MJF: It’s all right. Nobody cares, really. I get a lot of “Hey, Mike!” And really, if there’s anyplace in the world me being famous can’t intimidate anybody, it’s here. I mean, I did this show called “Leo And Me” for CBC years ago…
Me: I totally remember that show!
MJF: You do, eh?
Me: Oh, yeah.
MJF: It was kind of a piece of crap. (laughs) I say it with love! I love “Leo And Me”, I honestly fucking love it! Absolutely for real, I shit you not…it’s got nothing to apologize for, it was kind of my “big break”. And, y’know, in Canada…
Me: It was one of those typical CBC sitcom-things.
MJF: It was the only way we knew how to make ’em back then! This was a small town, used to be…
Me: It was a major role. Like being Huey in the Beachcombers, or something.
MJF: It was. It really was. Ha. Huey in the Beachcombers.
Me: Probably more of a shock of fame doing that, than coming back here now with all these movies under your belt.
MJF: Well, it really was, actually. I was still in school. It was kinda…weird and stressed, sometimes. And it really wasn’t too good a show. (shrugs) But.
Me: Can we talk about some of the stuff with the movies?
MJF: Sure. Nice segue, by the way.
Me: Thanks. So…you’ve been in a lot of them.
MJF: (swigs from beer bottle) That I have.
Me: Do you have favourites and not-so-favourites? By which I mean, I should probably say…
MJF: Do I have “Leo And Me” movies versus “Family Ties” movies?
Me: Sort of.
MJF: Sure. Sure, yeah. Kind of…probably not exactly…not quite what you might expect, I guess. But I’ve got movies I loved doing, that I knew were going to, y’know, not be big hits at the box office or anything. I did ’em ’cause I really loved them, that’s all. I mean, I’ve been really fortunate, I’ve really had a great time making all my movies…people talk all the time about cutthroat Hollywood, prima donnas and drama and…y’know…
Me: Brown M&Ms…
MJF: …Yeah, and that totally exists, no question. But I’ve been very lucky in that respect, pretty much across the board.
MJF: Well, but my favourites are, I guess you could say, a little bit more the Leo And Me ones than the Family Ties ones. In a way. Don’t get me wrong, I love Alex Keaton, without Alex Keaton I wouldn’t even be here, that was my real big break, I made my name there, hell I met my wife on that show…and Marty McFly, you know that was just like the most perfect thing that could’ve happened to me, that really was my golden moment in the sun, and I can’t say anything bad about it, the whole thing was just amazing. But you know the movie…I made this movie right after Back To The Future called “Light Of Day”…
Me: The Joan Jett one?
MJF: That’s the one. And I’ll tellya, I knew, knew deep down in my soul…that that thing was gonna tank in like the worst way. But, see, I figured…hey, here I am, I’m on the top of the mountain right now, I can make any movie I want, they’ll let me do it…and the thing is, I’m an actor, right?
MJF: I mean appearances to the contrary I’m an actual professional actor. Like, for real. Never mind I’m in movies, I did all the stuff you’re supposed to do, I took classes all the time, workshops…I don’t want to sound like an asshole, but I’m okay at it, you know? So I’m like everybody else, I want to play Hamlet, I want to play Willie Loman…but I’ve already been Alex and I’ve already been Marty, so there’s just no way. It’s not gonna happen. No one’s going to say “hey, there goes Mikey Fox, let’s get him on stage with John Malkovich in Streetcar! Yeah!” Just not going to happen. Not in this lifetime. But the Joan Jett movie, that I can do…that, they’ll take a chance on, just because I want it, and I can do some real acting before I, y’know, have to go and make…
Me: …Make “Secret Of My Success” or something.
MJF: And be Alex again, yeah. And then in the future who knows, I might be washed up, people might get sick of Alex…then where would I be? So I jumped on “Light Of Day” when I saw it, totally jumped all over it. Even though I knew it was pretty much guaranteed to bomb. And then everything else…well, it pretty much went according to plan.
Me: People didn’t get sick of you, though.
MJF: And I thank my lucky stars they didn’t! But they might’ve.
Me: Still, you don’t seem to have had much luck in the “big hit” department…the odd thing…
MJF: The odd thing is really all I expect, honestly. Well…
MJF: There’s one thing that does…you know, I wouldn’t say it bothers me. But it’s a bit of a mystery. I made this one called “Casualties Of War”…
Me: With Sean Penn.
MJF: Exactly, with fucking Sean Penn. One of the greatest actors of his, my, generation, right? I mean, he’s really, really good. He can go play Hamlet anytime he wants! And we had this script…and I thought it was just fantastic, I loved that script to death.
Me: You directed that one, right?
MJF: Me? No, no. Are you nuts? That was Brian fucking DePalma who directed that. Me, direct it. I couldn’t direct traffic. But I’ll tellya, I know good directing when I see it, that’s for sure, and Brian is a real, honest-to-God, gifted professional, in this way that totally goes beyond what I do, my little…talent for timing, or whatever it is, that they tell me it is. And you know, maybe I flatter myself, but I think he got out of me some of the best work I’ve ever done…maybe the best work I’ve ever done. I was so proud of that movie, really. You don’t know. But people…they didn’t seem to like it. As much as I hoped they would, I guess.
Me: It didn’t do well?
MJF: It got some good reviews. It rents well, they tell me. But in the theatres, it just didn’t…and it didn’t get put up for much in the way of awards, I know that sounds stupid, but I thought it was good enough…but it just kind of fell flat. (pause) I can’t figure it out, y’know? I mean…Sean Penn…Brian DePalma…and Vietnam movies were so big at the time, right? I just don’t get it. My wife, Tracy, she always tells me it wasn’t me, but…I mean, I can’t regret it any more than I can regret “Light Of Day”, and I know I contributed something there, that was outside my comfort zone…I think I rose to the occasion, I really do. But at the same time, y’know, when you star in a picture — Christ, I sound like Sinatra or something — when you’re the main focus, you’re supposed to be the protagonist, people are supposed to identify with you because of that, and ideally you want to be a help to the production, you want your name or your image to work for all the people on the set and in the office…but I just think, sometimes, it’s like…people have seen a lot of me. A lot. And so when I do a movie, maybe they just look up at me on the screen, thirty feet tall, and say “oh look, it’s Michael J. Fox and he’s got a big moustache on, oh look it’s Michael J. Fox and he’s wearing a hat“, and maybe that’s what they see, instead of what they’re supposed to see, which is the character. In “Light Of Day” I didn’t really care if that happened, it was…kind of…like I wanted people to see that, and be disappointed in that. It’s not a very nice thing to say, really. People worked really hard on that movie. I worked really hard on that movie. (pause) Really.
Me: There’s that timing thing.
MJF: Can you imagine me in Hamlet? Listen…Mallory…of late (beat) I’ve lost all my mirth?
Me: Fucking hilarious! Jesus!
MJF: I know. I’m a brand.
Me: How can you possibly put so much space into those things? What is that? Who does that?
MJF: I feel like William Shatner over here. Honestly. Honestly! (does Shatner) “Damn it, Skippy, you’re…half-HUMAN?”
Me: Have you seen David Spade’s impression of you?
MJF: (in mid-swig) I actually met him, and he did it for me! Crazy stuff. (swigs again) You know who’s the master of this, though? Michael Gross. He can hold a pause for like an hour. It’s totally insane.
Me: Can he do Shatner too?
MJF: (nods vigourously) Crazy Shatner. And you wouldn’t believe the Star Trek Girl-Of-The-Week thing that Meredith can do. That shit is messed-up, like nothing I’ve ever seen. You feel things. Bad things. It’s incredibly wrong. (pause) So what d’you think, should I just do commercials in Japan, from now on? Alex Keaton wearing a big sombrero, selling Right Guard? (does Robert Duvall in Apocalypse Now, only with Mexican accent) “I love es smell of Right Guard in the morning, es smells like…(waves hand around searching for word) wictory.”
Me: I think you should do fucking impressions in commercials in Japan.
MJF: Ha! I can actually do a great Burt Reynolds. (raises eyebrow) “Cigarettes. It’s cool to smoke them. (winks) You’ll get laid.”
Me: Unbelievable! Man, you should be in movies, or something!
MJF: I know. Look, we can’t use any of this, y’know?
Me: I know. It’s a goddamn shame.
MJF: I really try not to swear in interviews. Usually I like to think I’m pretty good at it, but tonight…
Me: The party and everything.
MJF: I mean I just got back literally today. There’s culture shock.
Me: You said smoking was cool, and it would get you laid.
MJF: I said Burt Reynolds said smoking was cool and it would get you laid.
Me: It’s not good.
MJF: No, es not.
Slightly mangled in the re-telling, Bloggers, but…yeah, that’s pretty much the way it went down in the dream. He really did seem upset about “Casualties Of War”, I felt bad for the little guy. I mean he tries so hard.
I’m not sure now but that there is some Elvis in him, after all. He may indeed be Valid, rather than Void.
Oh God…I think he and I may have switched places somewhere along the line…
Anyway, that’s right, yes: my dreaming brain does not discriminate.
So look out: you may be next…