Life hasn’t been easy for Michael J. Fox of late.
The much-loved actor has been locked in a battle with Parkinson’s disease for many decades now, and as one can imagine, that’s not a fight that gets easier with time.
But did you know that Michael’s childhood was quite tough – and he faced significant challenges when trying to break through in Hollywood.
Overall, Michael J. Fox’s life has been a great success – even though his Parkinson’s Disease has taken its toll on him.
First of all, Michael’s upbringing was pretty unusual.
Born on June 9, 1961, in Edmonton, Canada, he grew up with a father who worked in the Canadian Armed Forces, and therefore, the family moved around a lot.
Michael’s mom was a payroll clerk, so she had a steady job – but Michael grew upp in a typical blue-collar home. Finally, the family settled in Burnaby, British Columbia, and Michael J. Fox found his passion for acting in junior high.
He joined the Drama division at school, and it was evident he was a talented actor. Per his website, his theater teacher encouraged him to audition for a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation series, Leo & Me, and Fox got the part.
He got several roles on television and, at the same time, worked at the local theater in Vancouver. Michael J. Fox had decided that acting was his call in life at that point. At the age of 17, he packed his bags to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles.
“I knew that if I wanted to be someone, I couldn’t just sit on my parents’ porch and think, ‘Boy, if I was only born in the States and my parents had money and weren’t living paycheck to paycheck, I could do something with my life,’” he said.
Fox dropped out of high school, and his parents always supported his big dreams. His father even drove him all the way to Los Angeles. Speaking on LIVE with Kelly and Mark recently, Fox said he still doesn’t know how he convinced his father to do it.
Instagram / Michael J Fox
“I told him that I wanted to go to Los Angeles, I knew I wanted to go to the United States, I knew I wanted to be an actor. My father, I know, thought I was a hippie. He looked me in the eyes and said, ‘If you want to be a lumberjack, you might as well go to the forest.’ So he got me in the car and drove me to California,” Michael J. Fox recalled.
Making it big in Tinseltown, though, was easier said than done. Michael didn’t have the best starting point; he came from a working-class family and didn’t have much wealth to his name.
“I was living on the margins. I was 18 years old, with no money, no connections, literally dumpster diving for food,” he told Variety in 2023.
Fox fulfilled his dream of becoming an actor, and after only a few years, he got one of his most memorable roles. He was cast as Alex P. Keaton on the comedy series Family Ties, which became one of the biggest comedy series on television.
Not long afterward, he landed other parts, including his legendary role as Marty McFly in Back to the Future.
In 2022, he revealed his mother never supported him taking on the role in Back to the Future. And it seems like she had good reason not to support it either.
When he got the role, he was already working during the day on Family Ties. He revealed when he told his mother about the role in the movie, she advised against it. The actor recalled their exchange, “I was 23 years old, and I called her, she was in Canada, and I said, ‘They want me to do this Steven Spielberg movie, but I have to do it at night and I have to do Family Ties in the daytime.’ And she said, ‘You’ll be too tired.’”
But he went on to admit that his mother might have been right, he said, “I live for this kind of tired. It’ll be okay,” he had said to his mom, “To this day — well, till two weeks ago — my mother thought it was a really bad idea for me to do Back to the Future. She loved the movie, [but she was right], I got tired.”
On the set of Family Ties, he met Tracy Pollan. They were cast as each other’s love interests on the show. Sparks were only on-screen at the time, but a few years later, they’d reunite and fall in love.
Even so, Michael J. Fox already had a crush on Tracy while working on Family Ties.
“I developed a crush on her right away. When she left the show – the day she left the show, we were in the parking lot getting into our respective cars. She was getting into a rented Volkswagen, and I was getting into my Ferrari. And she called me over and said she wanted to play me a song. She played me a James Taylor song called That’s Why I’m Here, which was ostensibly about John Belushi. And one of the lines was, ‘John’s gone, found dead, died high. He’s brown bread, later said to have drowned in his bed. After the laughter, the wave of dread, it hits us like a ton of lead. That’s why we’re here,’” Fox recalled in an interview with NPR.
Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan tied the knot in 1988. They welcomed four children: Sam Michael Fox (born in 1989), twins Schuyler Frances and Aquinnah Kathleen (1995), and Esmé Annabelle (2001).
By the way, did you know that Michael Fox didn’t initially have the “J” in his name? Once in Hollywood, he attempted to join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the labor union for film and television workers worldwide. However, when applying, he saw that there was another member named “Michael Fox.” Therefore, Fox added a middle initial to his name, choosing “J” as an homage to his favorite actor, Michael J. Pollard.
Michael J. Fox officially retired from acting in 2020 at 60 years old and having just starred as Louis Canning in CBS’s legal drama “The Good Fight”, a spin-off to “The Good Wife” where his character first appeared.
“I reached the point where I couldn’t rely on my ability to speak on any given day, which meant I couldn’t act comfortably at all anymore. So, last year I gave it up,” he said of his decision to retire, as per Good Morning America.
When Fox was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease he reportedly started drinking heavily. Thankfully, he stopped, sought help and was brave enough to disclose his condition in 1998. Since then he has been a strong advocate and inspiration to those battling with the disease.
Since 2000, the Michael J. Fox Foundation has raised more than $750 million to help find a cure for Parkinson’s.
Michael J. Fox’s life is a testament to the power of perseverance and resilience.
Despite hailing from a humble working-class background and facing numerous obstacles along the way, Fox rose to become an iconic figure in the entertainment industry. His story reminds us that with determination, hard work, and unwavering passion for our dreams, we can overcome any challenge.
So let’s celebrate Michael J. Fox not only for his remarkable talents but also for his inspiring journey that continues to inspire countless individuals worldwide.