Michael J. Fox has opened up about the acting advice he gave River Phoenix when the late actor starred on an episode of Family Ties early in his career. According to Fox, Phoenix had a palpable hunger as an actor, but he was noticeably struggling with a particular scene.
“I said, ‘Look at this kid working. This kid is taking this 10 ways from Sunday and he is really coming at it’ … I mean, kids don’t act like this,” Fox recalled. “He really knew how to be an actor but he was struggling on this one scene.”
Realizing he should step in, Fox offered Phoenix some helpful advice that led to a deep friendship built on kindness. Via PEOPLE:
“So I went up to him and I said, ‘What’s the problem?’ And he said, ‘I feel like a d—,’” Fox recalls. “And I said, ‘You feel like a d—? Why?’ He said, ‘I feel goofy, I feel like a d—.’ And I said, ‘Welcome to the business. That’s it. That’s the highest level of accomplishment you’ll get is to feel like a d—.’ It’s stupid. It’s a stupid thing to do for a living.”
Fox continued, “We pretend we’re other people for a living. We use things that we’re not really using and we eat things that we’re not really eating and we stand in a place because the light’s better there and it’s all goofy, but if you stick with it, you can find a way to tell a story that other people can’t.”
The advice worked and Phoenix’s career took off like a rocket. While filming Doc Hollywood in Florida, Fox recalled that Phoenix would make it a point to come “scoop him up” and bring him to his nearby place for a barbecue.
“It’s funny because that was an act of kindness that was built on an act of kindness,” Fox said.