'20/20': Dudley Moore Battles Brain Disease

ABCNEWS' Barbara Walters interviewed actor and musician Dudley Moore for 20/20 in the fall of 1999 about his career and the malady that ultimately took his life. The following is a transcript of their conversation.

BARBARA WALTERS, ABCNEWS: Now the great comic actor, Dudley Moore. For years, he made us laugh in movies like Arthur and 10. But all that is history.

Last fall, Dudley Moore took a courageous step, coming on 20/20 to talk about the mysterious illness that has been taking control of his body and his mind. He said that he hoped to reach other people who are afflicted with this rare disease but hadn't received a correct diagnosis.

Well, he got his wish. After seeing his story here, thousands of people came forward to say that it had helped them or a loved one finally identify their illness. So tonight, with that in mind, we tell Dudley Moore's story again. The man who once made millions of people laugh now touches a very different emotion.

(VO) He was once a brilliant comic actor and an acclaimed concert pianist. Today, his hands and fingers strain to hit the right notes and keys. Every day, Dudley Moore struggles to get out of bed, to walk, to see and, tragically, to even speak.

Slowly, over the last decade, a rare and incurable brain disease has insidiously taken over his body. Four times divorced, he is cared for by an old friend, pianist Rena Fruchter, and her family. He now lives far from Hollywood, in this modest New Jersey home, close to his doctors and therapy center. Most people remember Dudley Moore because he made us laugh.

ACTOR DUDLEY MOORE: (From Arthur) Hello, girls!

WALTERS: (VO) Especially as the lovable millionaire drunk in the 1981 film Arthur.

(Clip shown from Arthur)

WALTERS: (VO) For years, rumors swirled that Dudley Moore had become, like Arthur, a drunk. No one knew that it wasn't booze, but his neurological system that made him stagger and slur his speech. Until now, he has never talked about his illness nor its effect on his life filled with triumph and torment.

(OC) People thought you were Arthur?

MOORE: Yes.

WALTERS: They took the character from the movie who was drunk and said, "That's Dudley."

MOORE: It's amazing that Arthur has invaded my body to the point that I have become him. But that's the way people look at it.

WALTERS: Your mind is intact.

MOORE: Yes.

WALTERS: So you know very well what is happening to you?

MOORE: Yes, I know very well what is happening to me. I know particularly what people say and think.

WALTERS: What do you most want people to know?

MOORE: I want them to know that I'm not intoxicated.

WALTERS: You're not drunk.

MOORE: No. And I just want them to know that I am going through this disease as well as I can.

WALTERS: Do you feel as if you are a prisoner in your own body?

MOORE: Yes, I do. I am trapped in this body, and there is nothing I can do about it.

WALTERS: (VO) Dudley Moore, in a way, has always been trapped in his body, always faced physical and emotional adversity.

He was born 64 years ago in England with a clubfoot. At the time, his mother knew the intense pain he would suffer as he revealed to me in this 1982 interview.

MOORE: (From 1982 interview) She rather charmingly volunteered the information that she wanted to kill me when I was born … But I mean, I took it in the spirit in which it was offered.

WALTERS: (From 1982 interview) Because she thought you would be so unhappy?

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