Michael J. Fox, Famous Friends Support Parkinson's Foundation at Annual Benefit
Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Tina Fey, George Stephanopoulos and Savannah Guthrie were among the stars who joined the actor, who gave THR an update on how he's feeling since returning to television.
Michael J. Fox's famous friends dressed up and stepped out for a good cause Saturday night, supporting his Parkinson's foundation at its annual benefit at New York's Waldorf-Astoria.
The Denis Leary-hosted event featured a performance from Coldplay's Chris Martin, accompanied by Fox on guitar, and was attended by Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, Julianna Margulies, Joan Jett, Mario Batali, Seth Meyers, Tina Fey and rival morning-show anchors George Stephanopoulos, of Good Morning America, and Today's Savannah Guthrie and Willie Geist.
Both Reynolds' and Geist's fathers are battling the disease, with Geist, whose father has had it for 20 years, noting that "it's definitely a personal issue for me."
Reynolds told The Hollywood Reporter on the red carpet that despite his personal connection to Parkinson's, he was impressed by the scope of the foundation. (His wife, Lively, posed for photos but didn't talk to the press.)
"You meet the people who work with this foundation, and so many of them have absolutely no affiliation with the disease whatsoever other than their job, and they were brought to it by a common denominator, which is Michael, and he's so inspiring. And you just see the people who work with this foundation and how tirelessly they give everything they have to it, and you start to forget that you're only here because someone you care about has Parkinson's," he said. "I was really blown away by the whole operation."
Others were there to support Fox and the work that he's done.
Stephanopoulos, who was accompanied by his wife, Ali Wentworth, told THR, "We love Michael and we're in awe of what he's done with this foundation and the difference he's made. … And you see every year the advances that have been made in Parkinson's research, and it's thrilling."
"We're also here 'cause the food is good," Wentworth joked, explaining that of all the events they go to, the spread at Fox's benefit is particularly tasty. "They always have a good meat," she pointed out.
Jett explained that her involvement was due to her close friendship with Fox.
"Michael J. Fox is a good friend of mine, and once I found out that he had this and he was doing something about it, I wanted to do whatever I could to help. And if me coming here helps, I'll be here every year," she said.
The stars in attendance said they thought Hollywood's support has helped with advances in finding a cure for the disease.
"When you raise awareness, you raise money," Margulies said. "I mean, it's the brutal truth."
Mad Men's John Slattery added: "We're trying to find a cure. Research is expensive, and the more people know about it, that's everything, so that's what he's doing."
"Hollywood is fantastic at whoring themselves out for a good cause and more power to them," Reynolds told THR. "I mean, it's a really excellent thing that you can get this many talented, wonderful people together for whatever reason it is and have people donate money and see a great show tonight."
But Guthrie said star-studded support doesn't just help from a financial perspective.
"Whenever you have high-profile people who are living with this condition -- number one, I think it does help with fundraising, and number two, I think it helps with acceptance and understanding and a desire to do something about it," she said.
Geist argued that Fox's public battle with the disease made a huge difference.
"It was a below-the-radar disease, and most people probably couldn't identify it before he came along and dedicated his life to it," he said. "We owe it all to him."
Fox said that he's proud of the work he's done to shine a light on the disease, not just within Hollywood, but in general. "I think the awareness we've raised has been crucial in focusing toward finding a cure and being a proactive part of finding an answer," he said.
Over the summer, Fox assured critics that he was up for the 22 episodes that NBC had ordered of The Michael J. Fox Show. Now that he's well into the season, he said he's still going strong.
"We've done 18 episodes and I feel great. I feel good," he told THR. "We're going into the home stretch right now. We're on our last hiatus … so I've been napping and eating and saving up my energy."
When we asked if his return to television meant that he might be interested in returning to the big screen, he laughed and said, "No, I just want to survive this."
Prior to his NBC series, Fox made guest appearances on a number of TV shows, including Leary's Rescue Me.
The comedian told THR that he hopes to return the favor by making an appearance on Fox's show. "He's given me two scripts, but I was shooting two movies back-to-back this summer and into the fall and I couldn't do it. So hopefully I can find a script in January or February that I can do," he said.
One of those movies was the sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man, which Leary said he couldn't tell us anything about "or they'll shoot me."
But he did say that he hoped the election of a new mayor for New York City wouldn't change the government's commitment to filming in the Big Apple.
"Compared to the way it was about 10 years ago, before we started Rescue Me, I think it's a big change, and it's a positive change," Leary said. "So I would hope [mayor-elect Bill de Blasio] wouldn't want to do anything to that."
Margulies, whose The Good Wife films in New York, added: "I think you can see how much [increased production has] helped New York City and how prosperous it's been for the city and the television industry that I'm in. … It's giving everyone a job, and it's a great place to be a part of a community that supports the arts."
The hosts of two longtime New York-based TV shows, Good Morning America and Today, all said they were happy about how their respective shows were doing, even though GMA is still dominating Today in the ratings.
While Stephanopoulos was basking in GMA's success, calling it "exciting" and a "great ride," Guthrie and Geist both said they were proud of Today.
"I feel like we are clicking in every way, and I'm just so proud of the show right now," Guthrie said. "To me, it's living up to its best traditions. It's bold, it's innovative, it's interesting, people are talking about it. I'm just really proud of the product. The most important thing to me is how the show is doing, whether we're putting on a good show, and I feel like we really are. I'm very proud of it."
Geist added, "I came on the upswing. Things are moving in a good direction. The numbers are closing. We have a great team. We all genuinely like each other."
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