Woody Harrelson praises Michael J Fox for turning ‘chilling diagnosis into a courageous mission’

Woody Harrelson has praised friend Michael J Fox for his handling of his Parkinson’s diagnosis over the last three decades.

Fox was diagnosed with the disease in 1991, when he was 29 years old.

While presenting Fox, now 61, with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the 2022 Governors Awards in Los Angeles on Saturday (19 November), Harrelson, 61, said his friend and fellow actor turned “a chilling diagnosis into a courageous mission”.

“He never asked for the role of Parkinson’s advocate, but it is his best performance,” Harrelson continued.

“Michael J Fox sets the ultimate example of how to fight and how to live.”

Harrelson also recounted a story from when he visited the Back to the Future star in Thailand in 1989.

He explained that he and Fox went out one night and stumbled on a child putting on a fight “between a cobra and a mongoose”.

“He taunted a bunch of these cobras and then he found the orneriest cobra, grabbed it by the neck, threw it in a cage with mongoose, where I saw the craziest fight I’ve ever seen between any animals other than studio executives,” Harrelson joked.

“And the mongoose won, they took the snake, yep, tied it by its tail, run the blood out, half-filled four glasses with cobra blood and half with Thai whiskey.”

Woody Harrelson and Michael J Fox at the 2022 Governors Awards (Getty Images)
Woody Harrelson and Michael J Fox at the 2022 Governors Awards (Getty Images)

He added: “Drinking the cobra blood is called ‘becoming brother to the snake’.”

Harrelson revealed that Fox promptly threw up his snake blood cocktail, but that he kept his down.

On receiving the award, Fox said to Harrelson: “I love you. We did some damage. We did some damage in the Eighties.”

Speaking of his disease, he said: “I refer to Parkinson’s as the gift that keeps on taking. But it truly has been a gift.

“I’m really blunt with people about cures. When they ask me if I will be relieved of Parkinson’s in my lifetime, I say, ‘I’m 60 years old, and science is hard. So, no.’

“I am genuinely a happy guy. I don’t have a morbid thought in my head — I don’t fear death. At all.”