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Davis Guggenheim Says Michael J. Fox Approved Footage Showing Him Being “An A**hole” – Contenders Documentary

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie tells the story of Fox’s career and battle with Parkinson’s disease. Director Davis Guggenheim directed the film and interviewed Fox. Though Guggenheim had final cut, he was worried Fox would ask him to remove some archival material that didn’t reflect well on him.

“It was after Back to the Future opened, after Teen Wolf opened,” Guggenheim said at Deadline’s Contenders Film: Documentary. “So he had the top two films in the country which was unheard of, and was returning to Family Ties, the number one comedy. There’s this footage of him shot behind the scenes. He’s being kind of a jerk.”

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Fortunately, to Guggenheim’s surprise, Fox was all for it.

“His first question was, ‘That scene where I’m an a**hole, where did you find that? It’s fantastic,’” Guggenheim remembered. “I suspected if I had made a film about him 10 years earlier, he might be more protective of that.”

RELATED: Deadline’s Contenders Documentary – Full Coverage

In fact, Fox was so gracious he would even power through interviews when he was in physical pain. Guggenheim didn’t even find out Fox was toughing it out until the last interview. Guggenheim asked Fox why he never talks about the pain caused by Parkinson’s.

“He looks at the camera and he’s quiet and goes, ‘I’m in a tremendous amount of pain,’” Guggenheim said. “He’s this guy who projects optimism. It’s part of his DNA. He didn’t want to bring it up. The next thing he says, ‘It never came up.’ If it was me, I’d be talking about my pain all day long.”

The inspiration for Still came when Guggenheim was experiencing emotional pain. During the pandemic, Guggenheim found himself in a depression. He saw an inspiring New York Times interview with Fox and then read all four of Fox’s books.

Part of Guggenheim’s self-pity, he said, was feeling like he’d made the same movie over and over. His previous documentaries, An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman, It Might Get Loud and He Named Me Malala were traditional. For Still, Guggenheim challenged himself to stretch, hence filming reenactments of Fox with an actor playing Fox.

“I want to take the audience on a wild ride,” Guggenheim said. “What if you can make a documentary that felt like a Michael J. Fox movie?”

A feel-good Michael J. Fox movie would not wallow in Fox’s pain.

“The only thing he said to me was, ‘No violins,’’ Guggenheim said. “The expectation from the audience is it’s going to be one of those movies. The next thing is my question: is yours the sad-sack story of a movie star that gets Parkinson’s and it crushes him? He looks in the camera with that perfect Michael J. Fox timing and he says, ‘That’s boring.’”

Check out the panel video above.

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