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Michael J. Fox (born June 9, 1961) is a Canadianmarker actor, author and voice-over artist. His 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 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.

In recent years, he has guest-starred on various television shows, and appeared as himself in his Emmy-nominated 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 Edmontonmarker, Albertamarker, Canada, the son of Phyllis, an actress and payroll clerk, and William Fox, a police officer and member of the Canadian Forces. Fox's family lived in various cities and towns across Canada because of his father's career. The family finally settled in the Vancouvermarker suburb of Burnabymarker, British Columbiamarker, when his father retired in 1971. Fox attended Burnaby Central Secondary Schoolmarker, and currently has a theatre named after him in Burnaby South Secondarymarker.

Fox co-starred in the Canadian television series Leo and Me (at age fifteen), and in 1979, at eighteen, moved to Los Angelesmarker to pursue an acting career. 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, a veteran character actor, was already registered under the name. As he explained in his autobiography, Lucky Man, 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. Pollard. Sometimes he jokes that the J stands for "Jenius" or "Jenuine".

Acting career

Family Ties

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. It had been sold to the network using the pitch "hip parents, square kids," 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. This happened despite the fact that Fox received the role only after Matthew Broderick was unavailable.

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.

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. Michael Gross (Alex's father Steven) portrays Michael Patrick Flaherty's (Fox) therapist and there is a reference to an off-screen character named "Mallory." After Flaherty becomes an environmental lobbyist in Washington D.C., he meets a conservative senator from Ohio named Alex P. Keaton.

Post-Family Ties

A few years into Family Ties, Gary David Goldberg was approached and 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 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM. 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.

During the year of 1985, Fox was filming teen comedy film, Teen Wolf, before filming Back to the Future, but Back to the Future eventually was released a month before. He would also go on to do commercials for Pepsi.

He then starred in Light of Day (1987), The Secret of My Succe$s (1987), Bright Lights, Big City (1988) and Casualties of War, (1989). In The Secret of My Succe$s, Fox played a graduate student from Kansas State Universitymarker who moves to New York Citymarker where he has landed a job as a financier. During the shooting of Bright Lights, Big City, Michael was reunited with one time on screen girlfriend Tracy Pollan. Pollan had played Ellen Reed on Family Ties, a dance 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 drama about the Vietnam War, alongside Sean Penn.

After Family Ties ended, he continued with the Back to the Future trilogy with part II and III. 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.marker to Los Angelesmarker, Californiamarker, he winds up as a doctor in a small southern town; and The Hard Way, 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 (1993) or The Concierge in some countries , Life With Mikey (1993), Greedy (1994), The American President (1995), and Mars Attacks! (1996). His last major film role was in The Frighteners (1996).

He has also done voice work providing the voice of Stuart Little in the movie of the same name and its 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 Zealandmarker. 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 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.

Spin City aired to critical acclaim and high ratings. The show ran from 1996 to 2002 on ABC, based on a fictional local government running New York Citymarker, originally starring Fox as Mike Flaherty, a Fordham Law grad serving as the Deputy Mayor of New York. 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 episodes). Fox also served as executive producer during his time on the show, alongside co-creators 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 as Dr. Kevin Casey, a surgeon with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. The series was created by Spin City creator Bill Lawerence, 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 which earned him an Emmy for 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 Bestseller Michael J. Fox: Adventures of an Incurable Optimist aired on ABC on May 7, 2009.

Personal life, illness and advocacy

The Michael J.
Fox Theatre in Burnaby
Fox married actress Tracy Pollan on July 16, 1988, at West Mountain Inn in Arlington, Vermontmarker. 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.

Fox started displaying symptoms of early-onset Parkinson's disease in 1990 while shooting the movie Doc Hollywood, although he wasn't 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. 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 a Parkinson's disease research through embryonic stem cell studies.

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

Living with Parkinson's disease

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, a commercial form of Levodopa (L-DOPA) and carbidopa. L-DOPA 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.

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."

In an April 2002 NPR interview, Fox explained what he does when he becomes symptomatic during an interview:

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).

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


While predominately a comedic actor, Fox has acted in a variety of movie and television genres.

Year Film Role Notes
1980 Midnight Madness Scott
1982 Class of 1984 Arthur
1985 Back to the Future Marty McFly
Teen Wolf Scott Howard
1987 Light of Day Joe Rasnick
The Secret of My Succe$s Brantley Foster/Carlton Whitfield
1988 Bright Lights, Big City Jamie Conway
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 McFly, Seamus McFly
1991 The Hard Way Nick Lang/Ray Casanov
Doc Hollywood Dr. Benjamin Stone
1993 Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey Chance Voice
Life with Mikey Michael "Mikey" Chapman
For Love or Money Doug Ireland
1994 Where the Rivers Flow North Clayton Farnsworth
Greedy Daniel McTeague
1995 Blue in the Face Pete Maloney
Coldblooded Tim Alexander Also Producer
The American President Lewis Rothschild
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 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 CBS 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 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
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 NBC TV-Movie/TV-Pilot
1984 Night Court Eddie Simms Episode: "Santa Goes Downtown"
The Homemade Comedy Special Host NBC TV-Special
1985 Poison Ivy Dennis Baxter NBC TV-Movie
1986 David Letterman's 2nd Annual Holiday Film Festival NBC 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 TV-Movie
1996–2001 Spin City Mike Flaherty
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"
Episode: "My Porcelain God"
2006 Boston Legal Daniel Post
2009 Rescue Me Dwight Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor – Drama Series

Awards and nominations

Canada's Walk of Famemarker
  • 2000: Inducted, Canada's Walk of Fame

Saturn Awards
  • 1986: Won, Best Actor - Back to the Future
  • 1997: Nominated, Best Actor - The Frighteners

Aftonbladet TV Prize, Sweden
  • 2001: Won, Best Foreign TV Personality

American Comedy Awards
  • 1996: Nominated, Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture - The American President
  • 1999: Nominated, Funniest Male Performer in a TV Series (Leading Role) Network, Cable or Syndication - Spin City
  • 2000: Nominated, Funniest Male Performer in a TV Series (Leading Role) Network, Cable or Syndication - Spin City

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

Family Television Awards
  • 2000: Won

Golden Globe Awards
  • 1986: Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical - Family Ties
  • 1986: Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Comedy/Musical - Back to the Future
  • 1987: Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical - Family Ties
  • 1988: Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical - Family Ties
  • 1989: Won, Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical - Family Ties
  • 1997: Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical - Spin City
  • 1998: Won, Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical - Spin City
  • 1999: Won, Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical - Spin City
  • 2000: Won, Best Performance by an Actor in a TV-Series — Comedy/Musical - Spin City

Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards
  • 1988: Won, Favorite TV Actor - Family Ties
  • 1990: Won, Favorite Movie Actor - Back to the Future Part II
  • 2000: Nominated, Favorite Voice from an Animated Movie - Stuart Little
  • 2000: Nominated, Favorite Television Actor - Spin City

People's Choice Awards
  • 1997: Won, Favorite Male Performer in a New Television Series

Satellite Awards
  • 1997: Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Comedy or Musical - Spin City
  • 1998: Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Comedy or Musical - Spin City
  • 1999: Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series — Comedy or Musical - Spin City

Screen Actors Guild Awards
  • 1999: Won, Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series - Spin City
  • 2000: Won, Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series - Spin City

TV Guide Awards
  • 1999: Nominated, Favorite Actor in a Comedy - Spin City
  • 2000: Nominated, Favorite Actor in a Comedy - Spin City

TV Land Awards
  • 2007: Nominated, Break Up That Was So Bad It Was Good - Family Ties (shared w/Courtney Cox)

Viewers For Quality Television Awards
  • 1986: Won, Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Comedy Series - Family Ties
  • 1987: Won, Best Supporting Actor in a Quality Comedy Series - Family Ties

Hollywood Walk of Famemarker
  • 2002: Star on the Walk of Fame - 7021 Hollywood Blvd.

Honorary Degrees

Indian Academy Award
  • 2009: He was invited by Sandeep Marwah President Marwah Studios at Asian Academy Of Film & TV , India and the institution honoured him with International Film & TV Club membership for his outstanding contribution to the Hollywood Film Industry


See also


External links

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