Michael J. Fox: 'I Truly Live One Day at a Time' as Parkinson's Disease Progresses (Exclusive)
The 61-year old Back to the Future star, who recently said, 'I’m not gonna be 80' while promoting his Apple TV+ documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, talks to PEOPLE about remaining grateful
Michael J. Fox, who for more than 30 years has been living with Parkinson's disease, an incurable degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, doesn't like to dwell on what might happen tomorrow.
"I truly live one day at a time," the 61-year-old Back to the Future star tells PEOPLE. "I live for each moment and I love each day."
The actor made headlines earlier this month when he candidly spoke about living with the disease. "I'm not gonna lie. It's getting harder. Every day it's tougher," he told CBS Sunday Morning's Jane Pauley.
"You don't die from Parkinson's. You die with Parkinson's. I'm not gonna be 80," he added.
It's a topic he touches on in his new documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, which chronicles his childhood in Canada, his rise to stardom on Family Ties, his diagnosis with Parkinson's and his life today.
Related:Michael J. Fox Recalls 'Terrible Year' with Parkinson's, Says New Research on the Disease Is the 'Big Reward'
"If I'm here 20 years from now, I'll either be cured or like a pickle," he says in the movie with his characteristic sense of humor.
Elaborating on that sentiment to PEOPLE, Fox responds with another quip. "The average age of death is 77. It's not that far out on a limb," he says with a laugh.
Joking aside, Fox says he's glad he's been able to do as much as he has. "If you told me when I was 29 when they just diagnosed it, that at 61 I'd still be going at it with a film to promote, that life would be so full, I never would have guessed it," he says.
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"I'm cautiously optimistic, but mostly optimistic, not so much cautious, as my family would say," continues Fox, who shares four children, Sam, 33, twins Aquinnah and Schuyler, 28, and Esmé, 21, with his wife of 35 years, Tracy Pollan, 62.
Still, directed by Davis Guggenheim, who won an Oscar for the 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, features clips from Fox's hits like Back to the Future and The Secret of My Success, behind the scenes footage from the set of Family Ties, as well as intimate footage of Fox at home with his family.
The Emmy-winner says he asked his family for their blessing to let cameras into their lives. "They all gave me their permission. And then, at various times, they retracted their permission."
Pollan, he notes, "is a much more private person, so I think it's difficult for her." Even so, she's happy with the finished documentary. "The most important thing is she thinks it's a true reflection of our lives and of me, and I think she likes it a lot."
Related:A Look Back at Michael J. Fox's Life and Career In Photos, from 'Family Ties' to Family Man
Guggenheim doesn't shy away from showing Fox's physical struggles. Early on in the film, Fox falls on the sidewalk outside of his apartment in New York City. He tells a passerby who stops to help, "Nice to meet you. You knocked me off my feet."
Later in the movie, the 5-foot-4 actor, who has recently broken several bones including his shoulder, elbow, arm and cheek, jokes, "Gravity is real, even if you're only falling from my height."
Scenes like that help viewers understand what he's going through. "That's my reality," he says. "People always say to me, 'Don't fall down!' Like it's a choice. I just fall down! That's my life. That's my life in a nutshell."
Fox says he gave the director full control over what to include: "I turned my life over to Davis Guggenheim. He picked the narrative he wanted to take."
Which was fine by Fox. "I didn't want to do his version of the movie minus my objections to the movie. I wanted it to be real for him," he says.
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie streams on Apple TV+ Friday.
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