Casting news, interviews and tips

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Casting news, interviews and tips

Ahead of its release next month, we wanted to sit down with someone who is part of a highly anticipated upcoming documentary. Danny Irizarry had the unique opportunity to play the central figure of STILL: A film by Michael J. Fox in scenes that recreate certain moments in the A-lister’s life. Irizarry sat down with Casting Networks to share a look at the process that landed him the role, including the moment he auditioned to play the man whose work inspired him to become an actor in the first place. Read on for all the insights into Irizarry’s election history, which may or may not have led to the actor inviting Fox to his upcoming nuptials.

Danny, thank you so much for being with us and playing Michael J. Fox in a documentary about his life. Can you tell us more about what that role looks like?

I had the honor of playing Michael J. Fox when he was in his private moments. This story is told primarily through footage that exists of Michael in the movies he’s been in and interviews that have already been done. But most of the history that has been studied [in the film] is his personal battle with Parkinson’s disease [disease], his relationship with his family and the impact it has on others. A lot of it happens behind closed doors, so I basically play the physical representation of young Michael when he was about eighteen to [him in] his forty years. To give the full context of what this means to me, I have to go back to when my sister and I were children. We both had 45 minutes of screen time to use per day. We combined our times at the end of the day so we could watch a few episodes of Family ties. And for me, that was the thing that got me into acting: I saw Michael J. Fox playing Alex Keaton on the show. I saw someone of my stature and my energy who was in the film industry making an impact and telling good stories – Family ties is one of the greatest shows, in my opinion, ever. I saw him play and it made me think that maybe I can do this when I grow up. The first monologue I ever performed at an acting showcase was by Family tiesand I still have it locked in my head to this day.

Eha. You have such a personal connection to this role.

As I thought about this, the word that kept coming to mind was “intuition.” All these different parts come together. It’s very full circle.

Thank you for sharing it. And it sounds like you’re playing Fox in the reenactment scenes in the documentary. Can you tell us more about the process of booking this role?

Everything was based on the physics of Michael J. Fox. You see, when the casting was first sent out, there was this idea of ​​having the actor pretend to speak the lines that Michael J. Fox actually says so his [Fox’s] the voice comes from the actor playing the younger version of him. As the film progressed, he switched to using a lot of existing footage of Michael. And for the parts where you don’t see his story — where there’s no footage of him at home or alone or going through these emotional things that aren’t on screen — that’s where I come in. I fill in these parts.

So going back to the casting process, was it personal?

The first casting call was in November and I only sent a CV with a few photos. There were a few different moves they wanted you to do – like kicking a skateboard or flipping a bed – so they could get an idea of ​​what your physique was like. Then later in the process they asked for another thing like where you read these scenes from, and one was from Back to the Future. And then the final audition was a dream come true for me. Afterward, I called my family and my fiance—who was my girlfriend at the time—to say that even if I wasn’t selected for the project, I would be absolutely satisfied with the process. Because I have to meet Michael in person. He was there, sort of holding the audition.

Photo by Adrian Van Stee, courtesy of Danny Irizarry.

Was that a “tweak” moment for you? You met one of your childhood heroes in person – that’s what got you into acting – by auditioning to play him.

Absolutely. You keep checking your hands and looking around to see if you’re dreaming. Like, is this really happening? And I got to meet some of the most wonderful people through this process. Everyone got to see that magic that comes from Michael J Fox. This is the encouragement – ​​there is goodness, there is hope, and we want to be a part of spreading and sharing it. The in-person audition itself was crazy. They had a stunt coordinator on set who walked us through some of Michael’s iconic moves, one of which is jumping and sliding on the hood of the DeLorean. You see this in Back to the Future – it’s so cool. They spent a lot of time teaching us how to do it safely. And then Michael came out and he basically taught us how to do it like he did it. I have been into gymnastics and have been a very physical person most of my life. But my nerves got the better of me and I messed up that hood over and over again. And finally our Principal Davis [Guggenheim] told me to take a breath. He said, “This time I want you to imagine that this is the happiest day of your life. You’ve gone outside and everything is going as it should. I did it again and suddenly it just worked. I landed him, looked Michael right in the face and it was one of those pinching moments. That was – they said that’s what they were looking for.

That was just the note you needed.

Exactly. It’s this idea of ​​positivity that changes the whole way you work.

I love that. And how has this role in such a hyped documentary influenced your career so far?

This is a difficult one to answer. In a weird way, I think it affected me more on a personal and relational level than anything else. It’s mostly because of the message, especially when you look at his history and how vocal he is about fighting Parkinson’s and raising funds to help people researching Parkinson’s and going through Parkinson’s. That’s the whole concept of the movie – that’s the idea of ​​what it means to be still. And what does it mean to take action? What does it mean to be there for the people around you? And that’s part of the reason I believe that Michael J. Fox is a hero. So all that to say, you sit down and watch this, and it affects you on such a personal level. You see the impact he had on the lives of all these people, and it makes you want to be intentional with your own relationships and those around you. I had just started dating the woman who is now my fiancé when I went out to shoot this, so we had a month of long distance right at the beginning of our relationship. And the relationship was directly affected by shooting this project and seeing what the message of this story is being told.

What I heard from this is that you are inviting Michael J. Fox at her wedding.

Absolutely. That was actually something we talked about. My fiancé and I were like, “Should we invite the Fox family to our wedding? They will not come, but we will be glad to have them.’ [Laughs]

But there would be one hell of a speech if they did.

Oh my god, that would be crazy. And when we were in Park City for [Sundance] premiere, I wrote a little note to Michael and to [his wife] Tracy [Pollan], just thank them. Because they had a profound impact on our relationship, and I think that was a really important turning point for my fiancé and me. So, you know, if they were to be at our wedding, that would be the coolest thing in the world.

Oh my gosh — we’ll have to track that down!

Yeah, we’ll see what happens there. [Laughs]

Danny, thank you for sharing a window into a role that was so impactful for you. Is there anything else you want to add before we wrap up?

I think the experience also gave me a little more understanding of the importance of what I call “that magic.” Art has meaning, right? There’s a reason we’re storytellers, and it’s important to be able to identify what that is when creating art. So I would encourage people to go see the film and go in with an introspective attitude. Let yourself be influenced by this hero of the industry.

From Fox’s early work that inspired Irizarry’s acting career to the wedding invitation the actor extended to his character—and everything in between—this was a window into the casting history behind Irizarry’s role in STILL. Those interested in keeping up with the actor’s career can find him on IMDb and catch his performance in the upcoming documentary when it launches on Apple TV+ on May 12.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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