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Michael J. Fox

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Michael J. Fox (born June 9, 1961) is an Canadian-American actor, author and voice-over artist. With a film and television career spanning from the 1970s to the present, Fox's roles have included Marty McFly from the Back to the Future trilogy (1985–1990); Alex P. Keaton from Family Ties (1982–1989), for which he won three Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award; and Mike Flaherty (Deputy Mayor) from Spin City (1996–2000), for which he won an Emmy, three Golden Globes, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.

Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1991, and disclosed his condition to the public in 1998. Fox semi-retired from acting in 2000 as the symptoms of his disease worsened. He has since become an advocate for research toward finding a cure. This led him to create the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and on March 5, 2010, Sweden's Karolinska Institutet gave him a honoris causa doctorate.[1]

In recent years, he has guest-starred on various television shows, and appeared as himself in a prime-time special Michael J. Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist (A Personal Journey of Hope) in May 2009.


Early life

Fox was born Michael Andrew Fox in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, the son of Phyllis, an actress and payroll clerk, and William Fox, a police officer and member of the Canadian Forces.[2][3] Fox's family lived in various cities and towns across Canada because of his father's career.[3] The family finally settled in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, British Columbia, when his father retired in 1971.[4] Fox attended Burnaby Central Secondary School, and currently has a theatre named after him in Burnaby South Secondary.

Fox co-starred in the Canadian television series Leo and Me (at age fifteen), and in 1979, at eighteen, moved to Los Angeles, California|Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.[3] He was "discovered" by producer Ronald Shedlo and made his American television debut in the television movie 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 does not allow duplicate registration names to avoid credit ambiguities, he discovered that Michael Fox (American actor)|Michael Fox, a veteran character actor, was already registered under the name.[3] 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 "Andrew" or "Andy" Fox. He decided against using his middle initial because he didn't want to fit into a Canadian stereotype, as in Michael "Eh?" Fox, and because he did not want teen fan magazines referring to him as "Michael, A Fox!" He decided to adopt a new middle initial and settled on "J", in reference to actor Michael J. Pollar.[4] Sometimes he jokes that the J stands for "Genius" or "Jenuine".

Acting career

Family Ties

Image:Michael J Fox Tracy Pollan2.jpeg|thumb|right|200px|Michael J. Fox with Tracy Pollan at the 40th Emmy Awards in August 1988 shortly after they were married

In addition to commercials such as Tilex and McDonald's, and his first role in a feature film in Midnight Madness (1980), Fox's first important role was as "Young Republican"Alex P. Keaton in the show Family Ties which aired on NBC for seven seasons, from 1982 to 1989.[5] and the parents were originally intended to be the main characters. However, the audience reacted so positively to Fox's character Alex P. Keaton during the taping of the fourth episode that he became the focus on the show. Although Michael played a younger role, he was 20–28 years old during the show's run. Fox met Tracy Pollan on the show, when she portrayed his girlfriend, Ellen. They later married.

When he left his next series Spin City his final episodes ("Goodbye: Part 1 & 2", Season 4, Episodes 25 and 26) made numerous allusions to Family Ties.[6]

Back to the Future trilogy

A few years into Family Ties, Gary David Goldberg was approached and was asked to let Fox star in a Steven Spielberg produced film about a time-travelling teenager. At first, Goldberg did not inform Michael about the offer, not wanting to lose Michael to film stardom. Months later, Goldberg was again asked about Michael, because Eric Stoltz, who had been chosen for the part after Goldberg stated that Fox wasn't available, was reportedly not giving the energetic performance that Robert Zemeckis, the director, was looking for. Goldberg finally told Michael about the offer and he quickly agreed to play the role of Marty McFly in the film Back to the Future. Fox would rehearse for Family Ties from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. After he was done, he would be rushed 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. On July 4, 1985 Back to the Future was number one at the box office. The film was number one for 11 consecutive weeks and eventually earned a worldwide total of $381.11 million. Two sequels, Back to the Future Part II and Back to the Future Part II were released in 1989 and 1990, respectively.


Image:Michael J. Fox with Rick Best.jpg|left|thumb|Fox in September 1987 During and immediately after the Back to the Future (film series)|Back to the Future trilogy, Fox starred in Light of Day (1987), The Secret of My Success (1987 film)|The Secret of My Success (1987), Bright Lights, Big City (film)|Bright Lights, Big City (1988) and Casualties of War, (1989). In The Secret of My Success, Fox played a graduate student from Kansas State University who moves to New York City where he has landed a job as a financier. During the shooting of Bright Lights, Big City, Michael was reunited with his one-time, on-screen girlfriend Tracy Pollan. Pollan had played Ellen Reed on Family Ties, an art major at Leland college with whom Alex became involved. Pollan had played Ellen Reed for only one year on the show. Fox then starred in Casualties of War, a war movie|war drama movie|drama about the Vietnam Wa, alongside Sean Penn.

Casualties of War was not a box office hit, but Fox, playing a Private serving in Vietnam, received good reviews for his performance. In 1991, he starred in two films, Doc Hollywood, a romantic comedy about a talented medical doctor who decides to become a plastic surgeon and while relocating from Washington D.C to Los Angeles, California, winds up as a doctor in a small southern town; and The Hard Way (1991 film)|The Hard Wa, playing a famous actor who is known for his action films. Between 1992 and 1996, he continued making several films, such as For Love or Money (film)|For Love or Money (1993) or The Concierge in some countries, Life With Mikey (1993), Greedy (film)|Greedy (1994), The American President (film)|The American President (1995), and 'Mars Attacks! (1996).[3] His last major film role was in The Frightener (1996).

He has also done voice actor|voice work providing the voice of Stuart Little in the Stuart Little (film)|movie of the same name and its Stuart Little 2|sequel, both of which were based on the popular book by E. B. White. He also voiced the bulldog Chance in Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey and its sequel Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco as well as Milo Thatch in Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

Fox had decided to return to television during his shoot for The Frighteners which was filmed in New Zealand. His twin daughters had just been born and he was halfway across the world. While filming the movie in New Zealand, he would watch videotapes of American television shows, such as Seinfeld, Friends, Ellen (TV series)|Elle and more. He saw what good things were going on in television and wanted to return. Also, television meant a more regular schedule and it would allow much more time to spend with his family.

Image:Michael J. Fox Hand Prints.jpg|right|thumb|The hand prints of Michael J. Fox in front of The Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park.

Spin City and later career

Spin City aired to critical acclaim and high ratings. The show ran from 1996 to 2002 onAmerican Broadcasting Company|ABC, based on a fictional local government running New York City, originally starring Fox as Mike Flaherty (Deputy Mayor)|Mike Flaherty, a Fordham Law grad serving as the Deputy Mayor of New York.[3] 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 of Spin City, Fox decided to retire from the show and 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 made (see list of Spin City episodes|list of episodes). Fox also served as executive producer during his time on the show, alongside co-creators Bill Lawrence (producer)|Bill Lawrence and Gary David Goldberg, and continued to be credited as executive consultant after he left.

In 2004, Fox guest starred in two episodes of the comedy-drama Scrubs (TV show)|Scrubs as Dr. Kevin Casey, a surgeon with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. The series was created by Spin City creator Bill Lawrence, and Fox was one of many Spin City co-stars to appear on that series. In 2006, he appeared in four episodes of Boston Legal as a lung cancer patient who used his influence in an experimental drug test to ensure he received the real drug instead of a placebo. The producers brought him back in a recurring role for Season 3, beginning with the season premiere, where his character is arrested for trying to buy a lung. Though his character did not survive the season (it was revealed that his character died in "Trick or Treat"), Fox was nominated for an Emmy Award for best guest appearance. Also in 2006, E! True Hollywood Story profiled Fox in a two-hour episode about his life which continues to re-air on the network. In 2009, he appeared in five episodes of the television series Rescue Me (TV series)|Rescue Me which earned him an Emmy for Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor – Drama Series|Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series. He was also a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on April 28, 2009 (airing past midnight in some time zones). Additionally, his prime time special based on The New York Times Best Seller List|The New York Times Best Seller Michael J. Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist aired on American Broadcasting Company|ABC on May 7, 2009.[7] He recently released a book titled A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned. The book was released in April 2010. [8] He guest starred on The Colbert Report on May 4 2010 to promote it.

Personal life

Fox married actress Tracy Pollan on July 16, 1988, at West Mountain Inn in Arlington, Vermont. The couple have four children: Sam Michael (born May 30, 1989), twins Aquinnah Kathleen and Schuyler Frances (born February 15, 1995), and Esmé Annabelle (born November 3, 2001). Fox holds dual Canadian-U.S. citizenship.[9]

Fox started displaying symptoms of early-onset Parkinson's disease in 1990 while shooting the movie Doc Hollywood, although he was not properly diagnosed until the next year. After his diagnosis, Fox's drinking, which had been a problem for many years, became even more marked; however, he sought help and stopped drinking altogether.[10] In 1998, he decided to go public with his condition, and since then he has been a strong advocate of Parkinson's disease research.[3] His foundation, The Michael J. Fox Foundatio, was created to help advance every promising research path to a Parkinson's disease research through embryonic stem cell studies.[3]

One of the few people to know that Fox had Parkinson's disease before 1998 was Charles Croughwell, one of his best friends and Fox's stunt double on Doc Hollywood. In later years, Croughwell and Fox developed a system of hiding the symptoms, as explained on E! True Hollywood Story.

Image:PD8056.jpg|thumb|The Michael J. Fox Theatre in Burnaby

Illness and advocacy

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a chronic neurological disorder which can be characterized by four cardinal symptoms: rigidity (specifically "leadpipe" and "cogwheeling" rigidity), resting tremor, postural instability, and bradykinesia (slow movement). At present, there is no cure, but medications provide some relief from the symptoms. Fox manages his symptoms using Sinemet,[11] a commercial form of Levodopa (L-DOPA) and carbidopa. L-DOPA Parkinson's treatment decreases in effectiveness as it is used over a long period of time, so Fox, like many PD sufferers, extends the life of its effectiveness by using it as little as possible. He has now had a thalamotomy [12]

In his memoir, Lucky Man, Fox wrote that he did not take his medication prior to his testimony before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee in 1998; "I had made a deliberate choice to appear before the subcommittee without medication. It seemed to me that this occasion demanded that my testimony about the effects of the disease, and the urgency we as a community were feeling, be seen as well as heard. For people who had never observed me in this kind of shape, the transformation must have been startling".[13]

In an April 2002 NPR interview,[11] Fox explained what he does when he becomes symptomatic during an interview.

In 2006, Fox starred in a campaign ad for Claire McCaskill touting her support for stem cell research. In the ad, he visibly showed the effects of his Parkinson's medication.

The New York Times called it "one of the most powerful and talked about political advertisements in years" and polls indicated that the commercial had a statistical impact on the way voters voted.[14]

On March 31, 2009, Fox appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show with Dr. Oz to publicly discuss his condition as well as his recent book, his family and his prime time special which aired May 7, 2009 (Michael J. Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist).[15]

Fox participated in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Book in association with UCLA, April 26, 2009. He shared a conversation with Mary McNamara, a New York Times reporter.

On February 28, 2010, Fox provided a light-hearted segment during the 2010 Winter Olympics' closing ceremony which took place in Vancouver|Vancouver, BC, Canada wherein he expressed how proud he is to be Canadian.

On March 5, 2010, Fox received an honorary doctorate in medicine from Karolinska Institutet for his contributions to research in Parkinson's disease.[16] He also has received an honorary doctor of laws from the University of British Columbia.[17]



Year Film Role Notes
1980 Midnight Madness Scott
1982 Class of 1984 Arthur
1985 in film|1985 Back to the Future Marty McFly Golden Globe for Best Actor
Teen Wolf Scott Howard
1987 in film|1987 Light of Day Joe Rasnick
The Secret of My Success Brantley Foster/Carlton Whitfield
1988 Bright Lights, Big City Jamie Conway
1989 in film|1989 Casualties of War PFC. Eriksson
Back to the Future Part II Marty McFly, Marty McFly Sr., Marty McFly Jr, Marlene McFly
1990 Back to the Future Part III Marty McFl, Seamus McFly
1991 in film|1991 The Hard Way Nick Lang/Ray Casanov
Doc Hollywood Dr. Benjamin Stone
1993 in film|1993 Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey Chance Voice
Life with Mikey Michael "Mikey" Chapman
For Love or Money Doug Ireland
1994 in film|1994 Where the Rivers Flow North Clayton Farnsworth
Greedy Daniel McTeague
1995 in film|1995 Blue in the Face Pete Maloney
Coldblooded Tim Alexander Also Producer
The American President Lewis Rothschild
1996 in film|1996 Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco Chance Voice
The Frighteners Frank Bannister
Mars Attacks! Jason Stone
1999 Stuart Little Stuart Little Voice
2001 Atlantis: The Lost Empire Milo James Thatch Voice
2002 in film|200 Interstate 60 Mr. Baker
Stuart Little 2 Stuart Little Voice
2005 Stuart Little 3: Call of the Wild Stuart Little Voice
Year Title Role Notes
1973 The Beachcombers Episode: "Truck Logger"
1977 The Magic Lie Episode: "The Master"
1979 Letters from Frank Ricky TV-Movie
Lou Grant Paul Stone Episode: "Kids"
1980 Palmerstown, U.S.A. Willy-Joe Hall
Family Richard Topol Episode: "Such a Fine Line"
Trouble in High Timber Country Thomas Elston ABC Television movie|TV-Movie
1981 Trapper John, M.D. Elliot Schweitzer Episode: Brain Child
Leo and Me Jamie Produced in 1976; was not televised on CBC until 1981
credited as "Mike Fox"
1982–1989 Family Ties Alex P. Keaton
1983 The Love Boat Episode: "I Like to Be in America..."
High School U.S.A. Jay-Jay Manners TV-Movie/Television pilot|TV-Pilot
1984 Night Court Eddie Simms Episode: "Santa Goes Downtown"
The Homemade Comedy Special Host TV-Special
1985 Poison Ivy Dennis Baxter TV-Movie
1986 David Letterman's 2nd Annual Holiday Film Festival TV-Special
Segment: The Iceman Hummeth
1988 Mickey's 60th Birthday Alex P. Keaton (a flashback clip) TV-Special
1990 Sex, Buys & Advertising TV-Special
1991 Saturday Night Live Host Episode: "Michael J. Fox/The Black Crowes"
Tales from the Crypt Prosecutor Episode: "The Trap"
1994 Don't Drink the Water Axel Magee ABC Television movie|TV-Movie
1996–2001 Spin City Mike Flaherty Seasons 1 - 4
2002 Clone High Gandhi's Remaining Kidney Voice Role
"Escape to Beer Mountain: A Rope of Sand"
2004 Scrubs Dr. Kevin Casey Episode: "My Catalyst"
List of Scrubs episodes#Season 3: 2003-2004|Episode: "My Porcelain God"
2006 Boston Legal Daniel Post
2009 The Magic 7 Marcel Maggot (voice only)
Rescue Me Dwight Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor – Drama Series
2010 "2010 Winter Olympics closing ceremony"
Colbert Report


Year(s) Film or television show Notes
1995 Coldblooded Producer
1996–2000 Spin City Executive producer
1999 Anna Says Executive producer
2002 Otherwise Engaged Executive producer
2003 Hench at Home Executive producer


See also

  • The Michael J. Fox Foundation|The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
  • Back to the Future trilogy|Back to the Future trilogy


  1. Michael J. Fox Gets Doctored[1]
  2. Michael J. Fox Biography (1961-)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7
  4. 4.0 4.1 "About Michael", Michael J. Fox biography from, accessed on October 31, 2006.
  5. Reagan's Favorite Sitcom: How Family Ties spawned a conservative hero
  6. Putting His Own Spin on City's Season Finale
  9. "Michael J. Fox Becomes American Citizen," from IMDb, accessed on October 28, 2006.
  10. 'It's the gift that keeps on taking' - The Guardian, published 2009-4-11, retrieved 2009-6-29.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Fresh Air" interview by Terry Gross" National Public Radio, April 2002.
  12. [2]
  13. Excerpt from Lucky Man, Chapter 8: Unwrapping the Gift. From, accessed on February 08, 2010.
  14. The Michael J. Fox Effect October 26, 2006, U. S. News and World Report.
    • Abrahamson, Håkan and {{{coauthors}}}. J Fox hedersdoktor på KI. March 5, 2010. Ny Teknik. {{{publisher}}}. Accessed on March 13, 2010

External links