About Michael J. Fox
Michael Andrew Fox, OC known professionally as Michael J. Fox, is a Canadian-American actor, author, producer, and activist born June 9, 1961. With a film and television career spanning from the 1970s, Fox starred in the Back to the Future Trilogy, where he portrayed Marty McFly. Other notable roles have included Mike Flaherty on the ABC sitcom Spin City (1996–2000), for which he won an Emmy, three Golden Globes, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards and his portrayal of Alex P. Keaton on the American sitcom Family Ties.
Michael Andrew Fox was born on June 9, 1961, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to Phyllis , an actress/payroll clerk, and William Fox, a police officer and Canadian Forces member. Fox’s family lived in various cities and towns across Canada because of his father’s career. The family finally moved to the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, British Columbia, when his father retired in 1971. His father died on January 6, 1990, from a heart attack. Fox attended Burnaby Central Secondary School, and now has a theatre named for him in Burnaby South Secondary. At age 15 Fox, starred in the Canadian television series Leo and Me produced by the CBC, and in 1979, at age 18, he moved to Los Angeles to further his acting career. Shortly after his marriage, he decided to move back to Vancouver. Fox is one of four members of the Leo and Me cast and crew who eventually developed Parkinson’s disease in mid-life, an unusually high number that led to some investigation as to whether an environmental factor may have played a role.
Fox was discovered by producer Ronald Shedlo and made his American television debut in the television film Letters from Frank, credited under the name “Michael Fox”. He intended to continue to use the name, but when he registered with the Screen Actors Guild, which requires unique registration names to avoid credit ambiguities, he discovered that Michael Fox, a veteran character actor, was already registered under the name. As he explained in his autobiography, Lucky Man: A Memoir and in interviews, he needed to come up with a different name. He did not like the sound of “Michael A. Fox” during a time when “fox” was coming to mean “attractive” and because his middle initial sounded too much like the Canadian “eh?” He also didn’t like the sound of “Andrew” or “Andy,” so he decided to adopt a new middle initial and settled on “J”, as a homage to actor Michael J. Pollard.
Michael J. Fox Career
Fox with Tracy Pollan at the 40th Emmy Awards in August 1988 shortly after they were married
Fox’s first feature film roles were Midnight Madness (1980) and Class of 1984 (1982), credited in both as Michael Fox. Shortly afterward, he began playing “Young Republican” Alex P. Keaton in the show Family Ties, which aired on NBC for seven seasons from 1982–89. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon in April 2014, Fox stated he negotiated the role at a payphone at Pioneer Chicken. He received the role only after Matthew Broderick was unavailable. Family Ties had been sold to the television network using the pitch “Hip parents, square kids”, with the parents originally intended to be the main characters. However, the positive reaction to Fox’s performance led to his character becoming the focus of the show following the fourth episode. At its peak, the audience for Family Ties drew one-third of America’s households every week. Fox won three Emmy awards for Family Ties in 1986, 1987, and 1988. He also won a Golden Globe Award in 1989.
Brandon Tartikoff, one of the show’s producers, felt that Fox was too short in relation to the actors playing his parents, and tried to have him replaced. Tartikoff reportedly said that “this is not the kind of face you’ll ever find on a lunch-box.” After his later successes, Fox presented Tartikoff with a custom-made lunch-box with the inscription “To Brandon, this is for you to put your crow in. Love and Kisses, Michael J. Fox.” Tartikoff kept the lunch-box in his office for the rest of his NBC career.
While filming Family Ties, Fox met his wife, Tracy Pollan, who portrayed his girlfriend, Ellen.hen Fox left the TV series Spin City, his final episodes made numerous allusions to Family Ties: Michael Gross (who played Alex’s father Steven) portrays Mike Flaherty’s (Fox’s character’s) therapist, and there is a reference to an off-screen character named “Mallory”. Also, when Flaherty becomes an environmental lobbyist in Washington, D.C., he meets a conservative senator from Ohio named Alex P. Keaton, and in one episode Meredith Baxter played Mike’s mother.
As a consequence of working in Family Ties, as well as his acting in Teen Wolf and Back to the Future, Fox became a teen idol. VH1’s show The Greatest later naming him among their “50 Greatest Teen Idols”.
In January 1985, Fox was cast to replace Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly, a teenager who is accidentally sent back in time from 1985 to 1955 in Back to the Future. Robert Zemeckis, the director, originally wanted Fox to play Marty, but Gary David Goldberg the creator of Family Ties, which Fox was working on at the time, refused to allow Zemeckis even to approach Fox as he felt that as Meredith Baxter was on maternity leave at the time, Fox’s character Alex Keaton was needed to carry the show in her absence. Eric Stoltz was cast and was already filming Back to the Future, but Zemeckis felt that Stoltz was not giving the right type of performance for the humor involved. Zemeckis quickly replaced Stoltz with Fox, whose schedule was now more open with the return of Meredith Baxter. He was considered for the role of Mark Kendall in Once Bitten, but it eventually went to Jim Carrey. During filming, Fox would rehearse for Family Ties from 10 a.m to 6 p.m, then rush to the Back to the Future set where he would rehearse and shoot until 2:30 a.m. This schedule lasted for two full months. Back to the Future was both a commercial and critical success. The film spent 8 consecutive weekends as the number-one grossing movie at the US box office in 1985 and eventually earned a worldwide total of $381.11 million. Variety applauded the performances, stating that Fox and his co-star Christopher Lloyd imbued Marty and Doc Brown’s friendship with a quality reminiscent of King Arthur and Merlin. The film was later followed by two similarly-successful sequels, Back to the Future Part II (1989) and Back to the Future Part III (1990).
after the Back to the Future trilogy, Fox starred in Teen Wolf (1985), Light of Day (1987), The Secret of My Success (1987), Bright Lights, Big City (1988), and Casualties of War (1989).
In The Secret of My Success, Fox played a recent graduate from Kansas State University who moves to New York City, where he has to deal with the ups and downs of the business world. The film was successful at the box office, grossing $110 million worldwide. Roger Ebert in The Chicago Sun Times wrote; “Fox provides a fairly desperate center for the film. It could not have been much fun for him to follow the movie’s arbitrary shifts of mood, from sitcom to slapstick, from sex farce to boardroom brawls.”
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In Bright Lights, Big City, Fox played a fact-checker for a New York magazine, who spends his nights partying with alcohol and drugs. The film received mixed reviews, with Hal Hinson in The Washington Post criticizing Fox by claiming that “he was the wrong actor for the job”. Meanwhile, Roger Ebert praised the actor’s performance: “Fox is very good in the central role (he has a long drunken monologue that is the best thing he has ever done in a movie)”. During the shooting of Bright Lights, Big City, Fox co-starred again with Tracy Pollan, his on-screen girlfriend from Family Ties.
Fox then starred in Casualties of War, a dark and violent war drama about the Vietnam War, alongside Sean Penn. Casualties of War was not a major box office hit, but Fox, playing a private serving in Vietnam, received good reviews for his performance. Don Willmott on film critic’s website wrote; “Fox, only one year beyond his Family Ties sitcom silliness, rises to the challenges of acting as the film’s moral voice and sharing scenes with the always intimidating Penn.”
In 1991, he starred in Doc Hollywood, a romantic comedy about a talented medical doctor who decides to become a plastic surgeon. While moving from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, he winds up as a doctor in a small southern town in South Carolina. Michael Caton-Jones, from Time Out, described Fox in the film as “at his frenetic best”. The Hard Way was also released in 1991, with Fox playing an undercover actor learning from police officer James Woods. After being privately diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1991 and being cautioned he had “ten good working years left,” Fox hastily signed a three-film contract, appearing in For Love or Money (1993), Life With Mikey (1993), and Greedy (1994). The mid-1990s saw Fox play smaller supporting roles in The American President (1995) and Mars Attacks! (1996).
His last major film role was in The Frighteners (1996), directed by Peter Jackson. The Frighteners tells the story of Frank Bannister (Fox), an architect who develops psychic abilities allowing him to see, hear, and communicate with ghosts. After losing his wife, he uses his new abilities by cheating customers out of money for his “ghost hunting” business. However, a mass murderer comes back from Hell, prompting Frank to investigate the supernatural presence. Fox’s performance received critical praise, Kenneth Turan in The Los Angeles Times wrote; “The film’s actors are equally pleasing. Both Fox, in his most successful starring role in some time, and [Trini] Alvarado, who looks rather like Andie MacDowell here, have no difficulty getting into the manic spirit of things.”
He voiced the American Bulldog Chance in Disney’s live-action film Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey and its sequel Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco, the titular character in Stuart Little and its two sequels Stuart Little 2 and Stuart Little 3: Call of the Wild, and Milo Thatch in Disney’s animated film Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
Michael J. Fox Later career
Hand prints of Fox in front of The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park
Spin City ran from 1996 to 2002 on American television network ABC. The show was based on a fictional local government running New York City, originally starring Fox as Mike Flaherty, a Fordham Law School graduate serving as the Deputy Mayor of New York. Fox won an Emmy award for Spin City in 2000, three Golden Globe Awards in 1998, 1999, and 2000, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards in 1999 and 2000. During the third season of Spin City, Fox made the announcement to the cast and crew of the show that he had Parkinson’s disease. During the fourth season, he announced his retirement from the show to focus on spending more time with his family. He announced that he planned to continue to act and would make guest appearances on Spin City (he made three more appearances on the show during the final season). After leaving the show, he was replaced by Charlie Sheen, who portrayed the character Charlie Crawford. Altogether, 145 episodes were produced. Fox also served as an executive producer during his time on the show, alongside co-creators Bill Lawrence and Gary David Goldberg.
In 2004, Fox guest starred in two episodes of the comedy-drama Scrubs as Dr. Kevin Casey, a surgeon with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. The series was created by Spin City creator Bill Lawrence. In 2006, he appeared in four episodes of Boston Legal as a lung cancer patient. The producers brought him back in a recurring role for Season three, beginning with the season premiere. Fox was nominated for an Emmy Award for best guest appearance.
In 2009, he appeared in five episodes of the television series Rescue Me which earned him an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. Since 2000 Fox has released three books, Lucky Man: A Memoir (2002), Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist (2009), and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned (2010). Starting in 2010, Fox played a recurring role in the US drama The Good Wife as crafty attorney Louis Canning and earned Emmy nominations for three consecutive years. In 2011, Fox was featured as himself in the eighth season of the Larry David vehicle, Curb Your Enthusiasm. David’s character (also himself) becomes a temporary resident of the New York City apartment building that Fox resides in and a conflict arises between the two, whereby David believes that Fox is using his condition (Parkinson’s disease) as a manipulative tool. On August 20, 2012, NBC announced The Michael J. Fox Show, loosely based on his life. It was granted a 22-episode commitment from the network and premiered on NBC on September 26, 2013.
Fox also made several appearances in other media. At the 2010 Winter Olympics closing ceremony in Vancouver, Canada, he delivered comedy monologues, along with William Shatner and Catherine O’Hara, in the “I am Canadian” part of the show. Along with Tatjana Patitz, Fox appears in the 2011 Carl Zeiss AG calendar, photographed by Bryan Adams in New York City in the summer of 2010. Despite a sound-alike, A.J Locascio, voicing his character of Marty McFly in the 2011 Back to the Future episodic adventure game, Fox lent his likeness to the in-game version of Marty alongside Christopher Lloyd. Fox made a special guest appearance in the final episode of the series as an elder version of Marty, as well as his great-grandfather Willie McFly.
Michael J. Fox Personal life
Fox got married to actress Tracy Pollan on July 16, 1988, at West Mountain Inn in Arlington, Vermont. together they have four children: son Sam Michael (born May 30, 1989), twin daughters Aquinnah Kathleen and Schuyler Frances (born February 15, 1995), and daughter Esmé Annabelle (born November 3, 2001). Fox holds dual Canadian-US citizenship. On February 28, 2010, Fox provided a light-hearted segment during the 2010 Winter Olympics’ closing ceremony in Vancouver, British Columbia, wherein he expressed how proud he is to be Canadian. On June 4, 2010, the city of Burnaby, British Columbia, honoured Fox by granting him the Freedom of the City. Fox and his family reside in Manhattan, New York.
Michael J. Fox Health and activism
In 1991, Fox started displaying symptoms of early-onset Parkinson’s disease while shooting the movie Doc Hollywood, although he was not properly diagnosed until the next year. After his diagnosis, Fox started drinking heavily. He sought help and stopped drinking altogether. In 1998, he decided to go public with his condition, and since then, he has been a strong advocate of Parkinson’s disease research. His foundation, The Michael J. Fox Foundation, was created to help advance every promising research path to curing Parkinson’s disease, including embryonic stem cell studies.
Michael J. Fox Awards and nominations
Fox was honoured and received the 2,209th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on December 16, 2002.
Canada’s Walk of Fame
- 2000: Inducted, Canada’s Walk of Fame
Double Helix Medal
- 2012: CSHL Double Helix Medal Honoree
Hollywood Walk of Fame
- 2002: Star on the Walk of Fame – 7021 Hollywood Blvd.
- 2011: Goldene Kamera für Lebenswerk (Lifetime Achievement Award), German film and TV award.
- 2010: Won, Best Spoken Word Album – Always Looking Up: Adventures of An Incurable Optimist
Influential Canadian Expat Award
- 2009: Awarded “Most Influential Canadian Expat”, Canadian Expat Association
- 2008: Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, New York University
- 2008: Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, University of British Columbia
- 2010: Honoris causa doctorate, Karolinska Institutet
- 2012: Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, Justice Institute of British Columbia
- 2017: Doctor of Fine Arts, Stony Brook University
Golden Globe Awards
- 1986: Nominated, Best Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical – Family Ties
- 1986: Nominated, Best Actor in a Motion Picture — Comedy/Musical – Back to the Future
- 1987: Nominated, Best Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical – Family Ties
- 1989: Won, Best Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical – Family Ties
- 1997: Nominated, Best Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical – Spin City
- 1998: Won, Best Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical – Spin City
- 1999: Won, Best Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical – Spin City
- 2000: Won, Best Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical – Spin City
- 2014: Nominated, Best Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical – The Michael J. Fox Show
Primetime Emmy Awards
- 1985: Nominated, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series – Family Ties
- 1986: Won, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Family Ties
- 1987: Won, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Family Ties
- 1988: Won, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Family Ties
- 1989: Nominated, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Family Ties
- 1997: Nominated, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Spin City
- 1998: Nominated, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Spin City
- 1999: Nominated, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Spin City
- 2000: Won, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series – Spin City
- 2006: Nominated, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series – Boston Legal
- 2009: Won, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series – Rescue Me: Sheila
- 2011: Nominated, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series – The Good Wife
- 2012: Nominated, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series – Curb Your Enthusiasm:
Larry vs. Michael J. Fox
- 2012: Nominated, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series – The Good Wife
- 2013: Nominated, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series – The Good Wife
- 2015: Nominated, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series – The Good Wife
- 2016: Nominated, Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series – The Good Wife