Michael J. Fox (born Michael Andrew Fox; June 9, 1961) is a Canadian/American film and television actor. His roles include 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. As the symptoms of his disease worsened he semi-retired from acting in 2000.
Fox co-starred in the Canadian television series Leo and Me at age fifteen, and in 1979, at eighteen, moved to Los Angeles 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".
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 only received the role after Matthew Broderick turned it down:
Fox met Tracy Pollan on the show when she portrayed his girlfriend, Ellen. They later married. When Fox 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 congressman named Alex P. Keaton."
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.
Spin City was a sitcom that ran from 1996 to 2002 on ABC, based on a fictional local government running New York City, originally starring Fox as Mike Flaherty, the Deputy Mayor of New York. 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 the comedy-drama Scrubs as Dr. Kevin Casey, who suffered from obsessive-compulsive disorder. 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. Though his character did not survive the season, Fox was nominated for an Emmy Award for best guest appearance.
Fox married actress Tracy Pollan on July 16, 1988, at West Mountain Inn in Arlington, VT. The couple have four children: Samuel 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, though he wasn't properly diagnosed until the next year. 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 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 Michael's best friends, his stunt double Charles Croughwell on Doc Hollywood. In later years, he and Fox developed a system of hiding Michael's symptoms.
In 1998, he was honored with a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.
On May 14, 2008, Fox was the recipient of an honorary degree, Doctorate of Fine Arts at New York University's 176th Graduation Commencement, the only college graduation to be held for the first and last time at Yankee Stadium in New York, NY. Later on May 22, he received the degree Doctor of Laws honoris causa from the University of British Columbia.
Fox, in a 2006 interview with Katie Couric, explained his political advocacy, "I'm in this situation with millions of other Americans... and we have a right, if there’s answers out there, to pursue those answers with the full support of our politicians".
Two years earlier, Fox had appeared in a television commercial for Republican Arlen Specter's 2004 Senate campaign. In the commercial, sponsored by Specter's re-election campaign, Fox comments that Specter "gets it" and Specter's voice is heard saying, "There is hope."
On July 18, 2006, Fox appeared in a taped interview on ABC's Good Morning America, defending a Senate bill (Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act) that would have expanded federal funding for stem cell research. The bill was not enacted, however, being vetoed by President George W. Bush.
For the November 2006 U.S. midterm elections, Fox endorsed candidates on the basis of their support of embryonic stem cell research, as different from adult stem cell research. He appeared at events for several candidates including New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez, Iowa Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Chet Culver, Illinois congressional candidate Tammy Duckworth, Virginia senatorial candidate James Webb and Ohio senatorial candidate Congressman Sherrod Brown.
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh caused controversy by claiming Fox was "either off his medication or he's acting." Limbaugh later said he would apologize to Fox "if I am wrong in characterizing his behavior on this commercial as an act. . ." Elaine Richman, a neuroscientist in Baltimore who co-wrote Parkinson's Disease and the Family offered the opinion that "Anyone who knows the disease well would regard his movement as classic severe Parkinson's disease. Any other interpretation is misinformed."
Fox responded to Limbaugh's comments, "... it's difficult for people who don't have Parkinson's, or don't know about Parkinson's, to understand the symptoms and the way they work and the way medication works. You get what you get on any given day".
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.
After years of L-DOPA treatment, new symptoms may develop called dyskinesia, which are different than that of PD. In an April 2002 NPR interview, Fox explained what he does when he becomes symptomatic during an interview:
Well, actually, I've been erring on the side of caution--I think 'erring' is actually the right word--in that I've been medicating perhaps too much, in the sense times the symptoms that people see in some of these interviews that have been on are actually dyskinesia, which is a reaction to the medication. Because if I were purely symptomatic with Parkinson's symptoms, a lot of times speaking is difficult. There's a kind of a cluttering of speech and it's very difficult to sit still, to sit in one place. You know, the symptoms are different, so I'd rather kind of suffer the symptoms of dyskinesia. . .this kind of weaving and this kind of continuous thing is much preferable, actually, than pure Parkinson's symptoms. So that's what I generally do...
...I haven't had any, you know, problems with pure Parkinson's symptoms in any of these interviews, because I'll tend to just make sure that I have enough Sinemet in my system and, in some cases, too much. But to me, it's preferable. It's not representative of what I'm like in my everyday life. I get a lot of people with Parkinson's coming up to me saying, 'You take too much medication.' I say, 'Well, you sit across from Larry King and see if you want to tempt it.'
|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 II|| Marty McFly |
Marty McFly Jr.
|1990||Back to the Future Part III|| Marty 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|
|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 |
|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|
|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||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 |
Episode: 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|
|2007||The Magic 7||Marcel Maggot|| Voice Role |
Aftonbladet TV Prize, Sweden
Family Television Awards
TV Guide Awards