Skip to main content

Fox, Michael J. 1961-

FOX, Michael J. 1961-

PERSONAL:

Born Michael Andrew Fox, June 9, 1961, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; son of Bill (a career officer in the Canadian Army and police officer) and Phyllis Fox; married Tracy Pollan (an actress), July 16, 1988; children: Sam Michael, Aquinnah Kathleen, Schuyler Frances, Esme Annabelle.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, Grand Central Station, P.O. Box 4777, New York, NY 10163. Agent—c/o Nanci Ryder, Baker Winokur Ryder, 9100 Wilshire Blvd., 6th Floor West, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.

CAREER:

Actor, author, director, and producer. Founder of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Television appearances include episodes of Leo and Me, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), 1976-77; Lou Grant, Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS), 1979; Trapper John, M.D., CBS, 1979; Family, American Broadcasting Company (ABC), 1980; Teachers Only, National Broadcasting Company (NBC), 1982; The Love Boat, ABC, 1983; Night Court, NBC, 1984; Tales from the Crypt, Home Box Office (HBO), 1991; and various specials. Television series appearances include Palmerstown, U.S.A., CBS, 1980; Family Ties, NBC, 1982-89; and Spin City, ABC, 1996-2000. Television movies include Letters from Frank, CBS, 1979; High School U.S.A., King Features, 1983; Family Ties Vacation, NBC, 1985; and Don't Drink the Water, Buena Vista Home Video, 1994.

Film appearances include Midnight Madness, Anchor Bay, 1980; Class of 1984, Vestron, 1982; Back to the Future, Universal, 1985; Teen Wolf, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists, 1985; The Secret of My Success, Universal, 1987; Light of Day, Columbia TriStar, 1987; Bright Lights, Big City, United Artists, 1988; The Return of Bruno, HBO Home Video 1988; Casualties of War, Columbia, 1989; Back to the Future Part II, Universal, 1989; Back to the Future Part III, Universal, 1990; The Hard Way, Universal, 1991; Doc Hollywood, Warner Bros., 1991; Where the Rivers Flow North, Caledonia, 1993; Life with Mikey, Touchstone, 1993; (voice only) Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, Buena Vista, 1993; For Love or Money, Universal, 1993; Coldblooded, Polygram, 1995; Blue in the Face, Miramax, 1995; The American President, Columbia, 1995; (voice only) Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco, Buena Vista, 1996; The Frighteners, Universal, 1996; Mars Attacks!, Warner Bros., 1996; (voice only) Stuart Little, Columbia, 1999; (voice only) Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Buena Vista, 2001; and (voice only) Stuart Little 2, Columbia, 2002.

Director of episode "The Trap," Tales from the Crypt, 1991. Producer of television series, including Spin City, ABC, 1996-2002, Anna Says, DreamWorks, 1999, and Otherwise Engaged, Lifetime, 2002. Producer of film Coldblooded, Polygram, 1995.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Emmy Awards for best actor in a comedy series, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, 1986, 1987, and 1988, and Golden Globe award for best actor in a television musical or comedy series, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, 1989, both for Family Ties; People's Choice Award for favorite male performer in a new television series, 1997, Golden Globe award for best actor in a television musical or comedy series, 1998, 1999, 2000, Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding male actor in a comedy series, 1999, 2000, and Emmy Award for best actor in a comedy series, 2000, all for Spin City.

WRITINGS:

Lucky Man: A Memoir, Hyperion Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Writer of television series Hench at Home, ABC, 2003.

SIDELIGHTS:

Beloved to audiences for his roles in the television series Family Ties and Spin City, as well as his performances in films that include Back to theFuture and many others, Michael J. Fox was reluctant to inform the public that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. The condition, caused by a malfunction in the brain that results in reduced production of the chemical messenger dopamine, manifests itself in outward signs that include tremors and slurred speech. Diagnosed in 1991, Fox shared the secret only with his closest loved ones until 1998, when he went public in an interview with Barbara Walters. The public response surprised him, he recalled in Lucky Man: A Memoir: instead of being put off by his illness, fans almost universally wished him well. "Even better," he went on, "much of the follow-up coverage centered less on me than on Parkinson's disease itself."

Though it bills itself as a memoir, Lucky Man is as much about Parkinson's disease, and one man's struggle with it, as it is about the actor's life and career. Fox is not the only well-known figure with Parkinson's; other victims have included Pope John Paul II, Billy Graham, Muhammad Ali, and Janet Reno. Yet he is particularly notable for his activism on behalf of sufferers, work that has included his establishment of, and fundraising for, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

Of his illness, Fox asks in the book, "Why me?" and then answers "Well, why not me?" Elsewhere he writes, "If you were to rush into this room right now and announce that you had struck a deal with God, Allah, Buddha, Christ, Krishna, Bill Gates, whoever—in which the ten years since my diagnosis could be taken away, traded in for ten more years as the person I was before, I would, without a moment's hesitation, tell you to take a hike." Yet most people would have readily traded places with the person Fox was before the diagnosis: a promising young actor with a winning personality, a beautiful wife and family, and numerous hits under his belt.

Born Michael Andrew Fox—he adopted the "J" in honor of legendary character actor Michael J. Pollard—Fox was the child of a sergeant in the Canadian Army Signal Corps. He and his parents and four siblings moved throughout the country until settling in Burnaby, British Columbia, when he was ten years old. As a child, he dreamed of playing professional hockey, and later took an interest in the guitar, as well as art and creative writing, before discovering his talent as an actor. At age fifteen, Fox made his professional debut in the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation situation comedy Leo and Me, but after three years he left to seek the greater opportunities that awaited in Hollywood.

After a promising start on the critically acclaimed but short-lived Norman Lear/Alex Haley TV series Palmerstown, U.S.A., Fox found himself struggling to survive. He lived on macaroni and cheese and seemed destined for the obscurity that awaits all but a very few of Hollywood's young hopefuls. Then, he did a second audition for the part of Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties, and his life changed forever. Thanks to Fox's boyish charm, the lovable conservative Alex almost instantly became an icon of the Reagan era, and by the mid-1980s, Fox had begun to branch out into film. By far his most notable role on the big screen was as Marty McFly in Back to the Future, which had two sequels later in the decade, and by the early 1990s he had accumulated some two dozen credits in a variety of films. He also married actress Tracy Pollan, whom he met on the set of Family Ties, in 1988, and they had four children. As a father, Fox sought roles in children's movies, providing the voice of Chance the dog in Disney's Homeward Bound movies, as well as voicing roles in the "Stuart Little" films.

But Fox had a secret problem—indeed, more than one—and when he first became aware of what turned out to be Parkinson's, he attributed it to a condition of which he (but not his fans) was well aware: his excessive drinking. Awakening one morning in 1990 while filming Doc Hollywood he looked down and saw that a single finger was shaking. Wrote Fox in Lucky Man, "I'd put away a lot of beers in my time, but had never woken up with the shakes: maybe this was what they called delirium tremens? I was pretty sure they would manifest themselves in a more impressive way—I mean, who gets the d.t.'s in one finger?" Within a few months, his wife told him, "The left side of your body is barely moving. Your arm isn't swinging at all." In the meantime, Fox realized that he was an alcoholic and he stopped drinking, but after a physician diagnosed him with Parkinson's, he went into a severe depression, only recovering with the help of an analyst.

Yet as the title of his memoir indicates, Fox, who retired from acting in 2000, considers himself fortunate—not only because of his fortune and fame, but for all his challenges and blessings. Lynn Andriani of Publishers Weekly called Lucky Man a "bravely honest autobiography," and Alex J. Wilner in the Journal ofthe American Medical Association wrote that " Lucky Man is an excellent read. Fox is intelligent, articulate, humorous, and passionate, and has a fascinating story to tell."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Calgary Sun, January 19, 2000, p. 36.

Cosmopolitan, April 1991, p. 170.

Current Science, September 27, 2002, "Fox Hunt," p. 4.

Entertainment Weekly, September 5, 1997, p. 32; February 4, 2000, p. 18; April 12, 2002, Bruce Fretts, review of Lucky Man, p. 68; September 12, 2003, Gillian Flynn, interview with Michael J. Fox, p. 160.

Esquire, February 1988, p. 104.

Gentleman's Quarterly, November 1989, p. 266.

Interview, January 5, 1988, p. 26; August 1996, p. 52.

Journal of the American Medical Association, November 13, 2002, Andrew N. Wilner, review of Lucky Man: A Memoir, p. 2337.

Ladies Home Journal, July 1993, p. 48.

Maclean's, December 7, 1998, p. 60; April 29, 2002, Brian D. Johnson, "Michael Then and Now," p 36.

Newsweek, May 11, 1987, p. 76; May 22, 2000, p. 62.

New York Times, January 10, 1988.

O, March, 2002, interview with Fox and Tracy Pollan, p. 142.

People, August 12, 1985, p. 82; December 23, 1985, p. 86; April 20, 1987, p. 86; December 4, 1989, p. 142; September 22, 1997, p. 164; December 7, 1998, p. 126; December 28, 1998, p. 85; December 25, 2000, p. 54.

Premiere, October 20, 1989, p. 84.

Publishers Weekly, July 31, 2000, p. 18; June 3, 2002, Lynn Andriani, review of Lucky Man: A Memoir, p. 32.

Reader's Digest, July, 2002, review of Lucky Man: A Memoir, p. 142.

Redbook, September 20, 1996, p. 106; May 2000, p. 112.

Rolling Stone, January 15, 1987, p. 25; March 12, 1987, p. 30.

San Francisco Chronicle, July 24, 2002, C. W. Nevius, review of Lucky Man: A Memoir, p. D1.

Saturday Evening Post, September, 2000, Patrick Perry, interview with Fox, p. 38.

Seventeen, July 1986, p. 90.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel, June 19, 2002, Oline H. Cogdill, review of Lucky Man: A Memoir, p. K6912.

Teen, March 1984, p. 51; August 1985, p. 57.

TV Guide, May 13, 2000, Steven Reddicliffe, "A Graceful Goodbye," p. 22.

Us, August 21, 1989, p. 21; January 8, 2001, Todd Gold, "Celebrity of the Year," p. 52.

Washington Post, April 9, 1987, p. C1.

ONLINE

Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research Web site,http://www.michaeljfox.org/ (September 10, 2003).*

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Fox, Michael J. 1961-." Contemporary Authors. . Encyclopedia.com. 15 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Fox, Michael J. 1961-." Contemporary Authors. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 15, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/fox-michael-j-1961

"Fox, Michael J. 1961-." Contemporary Authors. . Retrieved November 15, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/arts/educational-magazines/fox-michael-j-1961

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.