Michael Andrew Fox, on June 9, 1961, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Fox began using the middle initial ‘J’ (presumably smoother-sounding
than ‘A’) professionally to distinguish himself from another acting
“Michael Fox.” Michael J. Fox first achieved stardom in 1982,
as the acquisitive Reagan-era poster-boy Alex P. Keaton on the
popular television sitcom Family Ties.
Hailing from Canada, where he grew up the youngest of five children
to Bill and Phyllis Fox, Michael struggled in school and was too
small—he is five feet, four inches tall—to compete in his favorite
activity, ice hockey. He found an outlet in drama class, and in
1976 made his professional debut in the CBS series Leo and Me
at age 15 (playing a 10-year-old). After starring in the CBS movie
Letters from Frank (also filmed in Canada), Fox dropped out of
high school and drove to Los Angeles with his father. There, he
found work in the series Palmerstown, U.S.A. before landing the
role in Family Ties, where he wooed audiences with his confident
charm and impeccable comic timing for seven years.
He also had enormous success on the big screen, playing Marty
McFly in Robert Zemeckis’ zany romp, Back to the Future (1985).
After playing comic roles in Teen Wolf and The Secret of My Success,
Fox wanted to broaden his range and took some unlikely dramatic
turns, playing a factory worker in Light of Day, a cocaine-snorting
fact checker in Bright Lights, Big City, and earning critical
acclaim for his starring role alongside Sean Penn in Brian DePalma’s
Vietnam saga Casualties of War.
Audiences applauded Fox’s return to Back to the Future, for sequels
II and III in 1989 and 1990. His pitch-perfect portrayal of a
George Stephanopoulos-type character in The American President
(1995) earned Fox accolades once again, but it was his ceremonious
return to prime time television in the ABC sitcom Spin City, which
launched in 1996, that put Fox back where he belonged—delighting
audiences on a weekly basis with a schedule that allowed him more
time with his family. In 1999, he contributed his trademark voice
and comic flare as the title character (a little white mouse)
in the film adaptation of E.B. White’s Stuart Little.
In late 1999, Fox made the startling announcement that he had
been battling Parkinson’s disease since 1991, and had even undergone
brain surgery to alleviate tremors. Despite Spin City’s incredible
success and a showering of Emmy and Golden Globe awards, Fox announced
in early 2000 that he would leave the show, which he also executive
produced, to spend time with his family, and to concentrate on
raising money and awareness for Parkinson’s disease--including
the May 2000 launch of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's
Research. Fox won an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his final season
on Spin City, along with the respect and support of the entire
Hollywood community. He will reportedly continue to take on occasional
producing, directing, and acting projects in the future.
Fox married the actress Tracy Pollan (who played Ellen, Alex Keaton’s
girlfriend, on Family Ties) in 1988. The couple has a son, Sam,
and twin daughters, Aquinnah and Schuyler.