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'He was so nice to me': Michael J Fox says he remained friends with River Phoenix until his death in 1993

River Phoenix showed Fox some good old-fashioned Southern hospitality while he was shooting 'Doc Hollywood' in 1991
UPDATED OCT 29, 2022
Michael J Fox has fond memories of River Phoenix, even 30 years later (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images; Skye Runner/YouTube)
Michael J Fox has fond memories of River Phoenix, even 30 years later (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images; Skye Runner/YouTube)

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: In a recent interview, retired actor Michael J Fox has opened up about one of the kinder moments in his life that has stuck with him despite the passage of time — and it involves late actor River Phoenix. The incident had occurred over 30 years ago, when Fox was filming for his 1991 film ‘Doc Hollywood’ in Micanopy, Florida.

In a sit down with People, he said, “River Phoenix and his brother [Joaquin Phoenix] had a place there, and River would take us out.” He then added, “He used to come and scoop us up and take us to his place and have a barbecue. It's funny because that was an act of kindness that was built on an act of kindness."


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Fox also added later on that he believed that River’s warmhearted treatment towards him came as a karmic reward for his own goodwill towards Phoenix, who had starred in an episode of Fox’s TV series ‘Family Ties.’ He recalls he spoke to Phoenix and motivated him with a pep talk to perfect a scene that he was having trouble nailing.

"He did an episode of Family Ties when he was younger. It was just before or just after Stand by Me and he would do a scene and I could tell," Fox says. "I was looking at this guy ... I think Tracy [Pollan, my wife] was on the show that episode. And 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. He really knew how to be an actor but he was struggling on this one scene."

"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 then also added that, "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."

It is this incident that Fox believes earned him River’s warmth even after he scaled the heights of his professional career, with his profile as an actor peaking in the years before his tragic and untimely death. Phoenix died aged 23 from substance abuse. "I guess that's why he was always so nice to me when he became a huge star," Fox added.