Robert Redford Rejected Michael J. Fox From This Classic Drama Movie



Michael J. Fox nearly quit acting after experiencing a chaotic audition for Robert Redford‘s 1980 drama film Ordinary People that shook his resolve. The Doc Hollywood star discussed his road to stardom in his new Apple TV documentary, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, as well as in previous interviews.

In 2013, Fox recalled how tough the ‘80s were as a job seeker in Los Angeles who had a debt to pay. “I owed money, and my phone was cut off. I was selling sections of my sectional sofa,” he shared. “I was ready to go back to Canada and pick up nails on my brother’s construction site.”

Robert Redford rejected Michael J. Fox from ‘Ordinary People’

Robert Redford Rejected Michael J FoxRobert Redford Rejected Michael J Fox
STILL: A MICHAEL J. FOX MOVIE, (aka STILL), Michael J. Fox, 2023. © Apple Original Films /Courtesy Everett Collection

Fox auditioned for Redford’s directorial award-winning debut, Ordinary People, and to his disappointment, “Robert Redford seemed less than impressed by my reading.”

“He spent the audition flossing his teeth. The rejections can be so matter-of-fact that there’s a danger you get numbed by it. I was down to days… I had no money,” Fox recounted.


That was nearly the final straw for Fox, and he actively considered quitting acting. Timothy Hutton later earned the role he auditioned for in the Redford film and won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Timothy was only 20 at the time and set the record as the youngest Academy Award winner in that category.

More tries to success

Movie lovers are glad Fox never gave up, or we would not have had the perfect Marty McFly in the Back To The Future trilogy. Interestingly, Fox initially lost the role to Eric Stoltz, who filmed for weeks before the showrunners decided he wasn’t a perfect fit. Fox, who also lost several parts to Ferris Bueller’s Matthew Broderick, replaced Eric as the franchise’s protagonist, McFly.

Robert Redford Rejected Michael J FoxRobert Redford Rejected Michael J Fox
THE FRIGHTENERS, Michael J. Fox, 1996. ph: Pierre Vinet / ©Universal Pictures /courtesy Everett Collection

Fox’s persistence earned him a place in Hollywood with credits in many legendary productions like Teen Wolf, Stuart Little, and 2020’s The Good Wife spinoff The Good Fight, amongst others. He has several awards, including five Emmys, four Golden Globes, two Screen Actors Guild awards, and a Grammy.


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