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Lucky Man by Michael J. Fox Summary (Question and Answer)

Chapter One

No. Page Question Answer
CHAPTER ONE – A Wake up Call
1. 1 What does Fox mean when he says that he wasn’t shaking because he had received a message which contained bad news, rather his shaking was the bad news and a message? Fox means that when you receive a message containing bad news it is common to start physically shaking. In this case, however, the fact that his hands were shaking for no apparent reason when he woke up was itself bad news and he interpreted it as having a meaning he needed to understand.
2 2 Fox says that he woke up feeling disorientated and had a hangover, yet was reasonably sure that he wasn’t late for any engagement. How did Fox know that? Fox’s assistant, Brigette, kept his diary and would phone him at an appropriate hour to ensure that he was awake and ready to leave at the allotted time. If ignored too many times, she would physically visit his room and force him into the shower whilst she made him some coffee.
3 3 Fox at first attributes the fact his little finger was shaking uncontrollably with ‘delirium tremens’. What does this mean and what is its cause? Delirium tremens are shaking fits caused by excessive consumption of alcohol.
4 3-4 After Fox tries to remember the evening before, he begins to suspect that Woody Harrelson, who was acting in the same film, may have been with him in the bar. What favourite pastime, shared b the two actors, does Fox consider may have led to his present injury? Despite Fox and Harrelson being close friends, they would enjoy having “mock-fights” in which they would pretend to punch each other. Occasionally this got out of hand and inevitably it was Fox who would get caught with a wild punch. Fox briefly begins to suspect that this is what may have happened the night before and would account for the tremors in his little finger.
5 5 Fox’s twitching in his left finger remained a puzzle for a full year until a doctor finally told him that he had a ‘progressive degenerative, and incurable neurological disorder’. The same doctor also gave him an estimate for how long he could go on acting for. How long was this estimate and did it prove correct? The doctor told Fox that he could go on acting for “another ten good years”, an estimate which proved correct ‘almost to the day’.
6 6 After recounting how he received what most people would considere terrible news, Fox boldly tells his readers that “I consider myself a lucky man”, a phrase which he would also choose to use as the title for his autobiography. Why does Fox think this to be the case? Fox admits that nobody would have chosen his condition, which had been and is so hard to live with, but argues that the personal attributes which enabled him to cope with his condition and treat it as a journey have ultimately led to his enrichment. And it is for this reason that Fox considers himself a “lucky man.”
7 8 When Fox first met Michael Caton-Jones, he recollects that his first impression was ‘a mess’. However Fox doesn’t consider this an insult, why? Fox is an ardent believer in a piece of graffiti he once read on a toilet wall – ‘A creative mess is better than an idle tidiness’. Fox seems to count Caton-Jones among the former.
8 9 Fox says that Michael Caton-Jones was a potential director for a film that he was tipped to star in and the director had flown to New York to pitch his particular take on the film to Fox. Fox says that he was pleased to meet a down to earth, working class Glaswegian. What sort of a person had he been expecting and why? Fox had been expecting a rather upper-class, snooty Londoner based on where the director was now living and his hyphenated name which Fox associates with a particular type of Englishman.
9 11 Whilst Caton-Jones and Fox are deep in discussion about the new Warner Brothers film, they are interrupted by Charlie Croughwell who tells them that ‘they’re setting up to toss you through the barroom window in a half an hour.’ Why does Fox laugh when he hears this news? Fox laughs because it was typical of Croughwell to phrase things in this way. It wasn’t Fox who was getting thrown through the window, but Croughwell who was Fox’s ‘stunt double’.
10 11 Returning to their discussion about the new Warner Brothers project, Fox admits that he is only ‘lukewarm at best’ about the film. What does this expression mean? Lukewarm is an expression used to suggest that the author is not very excited or committed to the project but neither is he adamantly opposed to it. If a cup of tea is described as lukewarm it means that the temperature is somewhere between hot and cold. In a similar way, Fox is trying to suggest that he is neither very positive nor very negative about the new project.
11 13 Fox claims that actors working on a new film will experience intense pressure and isolation which would frequently result in ‘legendary drinking binges’. This side of the ‘movie camp’ means that, whilst not on set, actors would spend their time in one of two ways. What are these? Fox says that actors would spend their time whilst not on the set ‘in either a bar or in a coma’.
12 14 Whilst based in Thailand, where Fox was filming Casualties of War, his then fiancé, Tracy Pollan, came to visit him. When she returned home she received a nasty surprise. Who was Gavin De Becker and why was he hired as a result? Gavin de Becker was an expert in threat assessment and personal security and was hired by Fox to investigate a series of threatening letters that Tracy found waiting for her when she returned home from visiting him.
13 16 After Fox’s marriage to Tracy, the couple quickly discovered that their life was going to be regularly invaded by photographers and journalists. On top of this, Fox believes that Tracy had two other legitimate sources of complaint about their union. What were these? In addition to the paparazzi, Tracy had two major sources of frustration. First of all, after their marriage, Fox was constantly working on new projects and was therefore away from home more frequently than he was there. Secondly, Tracy had been an up and coming actress before their wedding, but her pregnancy had proven to be a great impediment to this. Later, her full time job as a mother resulted in her deciding to turn down the majority of projects she was approached to work on whilst Fox carried on working.
14 19 Fox remembers his junior high school drama teacher telling the class ‘remember…we are all here because we’re not all there’. What does this expression mean? To say that someone is ‘not all there’ is to suggest that they have a mental problem of one sort or another, literally that there brain isn’t all there. With this in mind, what Fox’s drama teacher means is that the students are interested in drama generally, and participating in this play specifically, because they have something wrong with them!
15 18-20 Fox claims that he deeply valued his family and recognised the value, both to them and to himself, in taking some time away from acting and spending it with them. Despite this, however, Fox decides to take part in the new film being pitched by Caton-Jones. How did Fox explain this? Fox explains that he was plagued by insecurities. Above all else in his career to date, he had been involved in two massively popular projects. Family Ties, a television series which ran for many years, and Back to The Future which had generated a number of sequels. The series had finally come to an end and he had concluded filming for the sequels to Back to the future. Fox was therefore feeling vulnerable and worried about his future in the industry – what he thought he needed above all else at this point in time was a new hit to cement his place in showbiz.
16 23 After spending some time trying to stop his finger from trembling, Fox phoned his assistant to tell her about his symptoms. She immediately told him that it sounded like a neurological problem. Why did she suggest that Fox speak to her brother? Brigitte’s brother was a brain surgeon based in Boston. He was therefore well qualified to discuss Fox’s condition on a professional basis and give the actor some advice on how to proceed.
17 24 When Philip, Brig’s brother, phones Fox to discuss his trembling finger, he asked Fox to detail any recent physical traumas or accidents he had suffered. One of fox’s stories particularly concerned Philip. Outline this story. Whilst filming a scene for Back to the Future in which Fox’s character is hung by an angry lynch mob, an accident occurred during filming which resulted in Fox being choked unconscious by the noose being used in the scene. Following this initial accident, he was left hanging from the rope for a few seconds before anyone realised that he wasn’t acting but really was in danger.
18 25 That evening, Fox was sent to a local neurological department as a precaution. The doctor’s examination did not concern them. What was their diagnosis and why did they ‘all have a good chuckle about that one’?

The doctors thought that the most likely cause of Fox’s symptoms was a ‘minor injury’ to his ulna. As Fox points out, the more common name for this part of the body is the funny bone and, given his profession as a comedian, this injury seemed rather amusing to them all.


19 27 What does the term ‘bankability mean and, according to Fox, on what basis is an actor’s ‘bankability’ determined? An actor’s bankability is his or her ability to generate money for a studio. According to Fox this is determined by an actor’s ability to draw an audience to the first three days of a film’s release to the cinemas. After this initial period, success was more attributable to a range of other factors such as marketing and word of mouth.
20 29 Why did Fox apologise to Peter Benedek, his agent, after being told by the latter that Doc Holliwood had a moderately successful opening night in cinemas across the country? Fox had been very concerned about the opening night of Doc Holliwood and had spent the previous evening drinking to excess before being uncharacteristically rude to Peter.
21 31 Encouraged by the success of Doc Holliwood, Fox decided to invest time to get fitter and ‘lose a few pounds’. To this end, he began taking a number of runs around where he was staying. During one of these runs his wife, Tracy, felt the need to stop him. Why did she do this? Coincidentally, she had been driving past him whilst he was running and stopped because she thought that he ‘looked like hell’. She was especially concerned that the left side of his body seemed to barely be moving.
22 33-34 After a series of inconclusive tests, Fox was persuaded to visit another neurologist for a second diagnosis. On this occasion Fox was given the life changing news that he was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, an incurable and debilitating neurological condition. How did Fox first react when the doctor gave him this news? Fox would have expected that he would have made a terrible scene and tried at the very least to contradict or at least argue with the doctor however in the event he just sat silently and nodded his head. In fact, Fox can’t really remember much about the day he received this news at all.
23 36 After telling his wife about the diagnosis and having it confirmed by a number of other doctors, how did Fox deal with the news for the next seven years? Fox decided to tell only the closest members of his family and do his best to hide the symptoms from the rest of the world.

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