Michael J. Fox says he turned down a role in Ghost : 'I can be an idiot too'

Michael J. Fox might have communicated with the dead in The Frighteners, but he very nearly starred in another blockbuster about lingering spirits.

The actor said he turned down a role in the 1990 romantic thriller Ghost, which starred Patrick Swayze as a murdered banker whose spirit lingers to protect his partner (Demi Moore) from those responsible for his death. "I didn't see how it would work," Fox told Variety in a cover interview published Thursday. "It shows I can be an idiot too."

Fox didn't elaborate on which role he'd been up for, but he already had a number of high-profile titles under his belt by the time the Oscar-nominated film debuted, including the first two Back to the Future films, Teen Wolf, and Casualties of War. It was around that time, in 1991, that Fox received a diagnosis of early onset Parkinson's at the age of 29.

Michael J. Fox
Michael J. Fox

Terry Wyatt/Getty Images Michael J. Fox

"It's such a shitty disease," Fox said. "I didn't want to think about it. I didn't want to deal with it. It didn't fit my story. I just shut down."

Fox's decades-long battle with Parkinson's, a disorder that affects the nervous system and can cause tremors and balance issues, is explored in the forthcoming Apple TV+ documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie from director Davis Guggenheim. Just don't call it a Parkinson's movie. Fox previously told EW that he had only one request for Guggenheim when they set out to make the movie: no violins.

"They're overly schmaltzy," Fox said. Guggenheim added, "We're not going to put him in a box as someone with a handicap. We're not going to say, 'Oh, poor Michael.' And you see that from the beginning of the movie. We just immediately subvert that expectation."

The doc instead offers messages of hope and perseverance. "I watch how Michael's dealt with [his diagnosis], and that's given me a path forward," Guggenheim said. "It could be Parkinson's, it could be cancer, it could be work, it could be anything. But that's the appeal to me; it's a universal story. The pitch was: What happens when an incurable optimist confronts an incurable disease?'"

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