For Michael J. Fox, this past Wednesday brought together his three great passions: acting, his family, and the search for a cure to Parkinson's disease.
It was the screening of his new animated Disney film, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, in which Fox is the voice of adventure star Milo. The screening was to benefit Fox's foundation, which funds research on Parkinson's. Fox also announced that he and his wife, Tracy Pollan, are expecting their fourth child.
Fox left the hit TV series Spin City last year, two years after disclosing that he has Parkinson's disease. He didn't pick the behind-the-scenes role in Atlantis to help shield the disease, which affects his speech and movement. But he acknowledged that he enjoys voiceovers more now.
"It's great, it works out really well, but I would do them anyway and, and had done them anyway," Fox told Good Morning America. "I think I enjoy them more because of the disease in a strange way, in the sense that I'm just totally liberated when I go in."
But he doesn't do them as a way to stay in the film business.
"I'm actually really enjoying the hiatus from doing it," Fox said.
The Greatest Lesson
But is he intending to go back into television or movie acting?
"I've learned that my intent doesn't mean a whole lot," Fox said. "And that's been the greatest lesson of the whole thing. So, you know, every day is an adventure."
He can see himself doing other films in the future and can see things happening that would enable him to do things that he cannot do now, he said.
Research into Parkinson's disease is promising, though it's hard to say which type of research stands the best chance of helping to cure the disease, Fox said.
"But obviously the things that come to mind are stem cell research, and then obviously all the stuff, mapping the genome, you know, trying to identify genes, the Parkinson gene," Fox said.
He's now 40, but by the time he's 50, he is expecting progress.
"Oh, I guarantee it," he said. "I mean whether or not I benefit from it ... I'm not saying I'll sit here in front of you 10 years from now and have gone past it." He is impressed with the research he's seen.
The Stem Cell Controversy
"I mean, significant strides are being made, not only in this but in so many things, I mean look, they, they've got a pill now for leukemia," he said.
Fox acknowledged that he is disappointed that the controversy surrounding stem cell research has slowed down research that could help those with Parkinson's.
The debate about stem cell research has pitted scientists who consider the research potentially life-saving against those opposed to the use of human embryos for any reason.
"It is discouraging, and I want to be really careful in making the distinction that anyone who has an ethical or a moral problem with something gives it thought and puts their heart into it," Fox said. "I've put everything I have into this and I've come out on a different position than you."
But he does object to the stance against any embryo usage, even when abortion is not involved.
"If you're dealing with embryonic stem cells, which are not fetal stem cells; nothing to do with abortion," Fox said. "They have to do with in vitro fertilization, that because every time a couple does this, they create many more [embryos] than they need."
Researchers should be able to use the extra embryos that would have been discarded, he said.
"Their potential for life is gone because they're thrown away. So the reasoning is if they can save lives, and improve lives that's research worth looking into," he said.
The Magic’s Out There
In talking about the new movie Atlantis, Fox describes Milo, the character with Fox's voice, as "someone who believes that there's magic out there."
It reminds him of a friend with a similar philosophy.
"There's an expression that a dear friend of mine uses, which she sometimes uses it in a cautionary sense, which is magical thinking," Fox said. "And magical thinking can get you into trouble in the sense of thinking while, you know, one day a cure is going to fall out of the sky, or this is going to happen, or that's going to happen."
"But I think if you put the appropriate amount of weight on each of those two words, on magical and thinking, then you're onto something," Fox said. "I mean, I think we have to think our way to the magic."
Last year, he established the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, which has raised millions for research. Parkinson's is a chronic degenerative neurological disorder that affects about 1 million Americans and impairs the central nervous system, making even simple movements difficult.