Michael J. Fox: His Career, Relationships And Struggles

Michael J. Fox is one of the most iconic actors of his generation. From his dedication to the arts and inspirational life, the Back To The Future star has shown that nothing can break him down.

Secret To Success

Michael J. Fox and Tracy Pollan have 27 years of marriage under their belt. Despite their ups and downs the long-standing couple promised that protection is one of the keys to their success. Pollan said, “You just have [to have] the perspective that you’re behind each other’s back – and it helps if you can make each other laugh.”

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Fake Name

Michael J. Fox is one of the most iconic names in the movie industry with so many people looking up to his incredible work. However, when the actor was registered into the Screen Actors Guild he found that his original name was taken and they only accepted unique names so he was forced to come up with something else. He didn’t like the sound of his middle name Andrew so opted to pay homage to the Actor Michael J. Pollard and replicate the J. as his own middle name.

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Unusual Casting

One of Michael’s earliest roles was in 1982 where he played Alex P. Keaton on NBC sitcom Family Ties. The show ended up airing for seven successful seasons and thrust Michael into the limelight. It later emerged that the role was not meant to go to Michael at all and he ended up negotiating his part in it over a payphone next to a fast food fried chicken joint. To add insult to injury, the producers initially wanted Matthew Broderick to play his part.

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Illegal Immigrant

Michael has been vocal about how he is proud of his Canadian roots and citizenship but there was a time when he was trying to escape that reality. Prior to getting his big break, Michael was living and working in the United States illegally and refused to return to Canada in the event that he was barred from going back to the U.S. Michael later spoke of the dilemma and said that he was forced to hire immigration lawyers to sort it out.

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Becoming Jewish

Michael was raised Anglican but after meeting his wife Pollen, who was raised Jewish, began looking into the religion. Although he did not do a full conversion, the actor now considers himself a reform Jew and regularly attends a reform synagogue. His wedding ceremony to Tracy had Jewish ritual elements including the ceremony being conducted under a chuppah. The couple decided to raise their children within the Jewish religion and Michael has said he helped them learn Torah.

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Leaving Education Early

Michael quit high school before graduating from his senior year in a move which he called a “stupid youthful mistake.” When he told his teachers he was leaving to go act in Hollywood, they replied “Fox, you’re not going to be cute forever,” with the actor replying “Maybe just long enough, sir.” Due to his decision, Michael told his children they are forbidden to quit high school for Hollywood and they must graduate and go to college.

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Missed Out On Marty

When Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale tried to cast Michael in the now iconic film Back To The Future, Michael had to reject the role due to scheduling conflicts, leading them to cast Eric Stoltz instead. Following six weeks of filming, Eric Stoltz was fired from the role as the directors thought he was “too intense” for the role of Marty McFly. When Michael was approached again, it worked out that he was free of his commitments and he then took over the role.

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First Kiss

Fox co-starred with his now wife Tracy on Family Ties and the two played sweethearts on screen. Pollen admitted that their first kiss was on TV and was only because it was written into the script. Interestingly, it wasn’t until the duo began working on the movie Bright Lights, Big City together in 1985 that they started dating in real life. From then, their relationship was a whirlwind and the two were married in the following year.

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Something’s Not Right

While Michael was working on Doc Hollywood in 1991, he noticed that his finger was constantly twitching and no matter what he did he couldn’t control it. After trying to hide his ailment for a while, he was told to go and see a doctor to get it checked out. When the doctor then diagnosed the actor with Parkinson’s disease, he knew that he was going to have trouble. When he worked on Spin City in 1996, he would often hide his shaking fingers in his pockets.

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Hollywood Star

In 2002, Michael was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame after boasting quite the incredible acting portfolio. Upon his star being unveiled, Michael was overcome with emotion and was incredibly grateful and said that, “Acting is a great thing to do for a living, to do something you love, and to hear all the time that maybe you’ve done something to make people happy.” The actor was joined by his family, making it a special moment.

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Presidential Support

Despite many of his on-screen characters being portrayed as strong Republicans, Michael’s political support off-screen was quite the contrary. In 2008, Fox was a vocal supporter of Democratic candidate Barack Obama, and even took part in some political rallies for the former President. The actor further recalled how on election day, he went to vote in a T-shirt reading “Barack to the Future” which his friend had specially made for him, paying homage to his most famous film role.

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Not A Lunchbox Boy

Although NBC gave Michael J. Fox his big break, not all of the executives were so thrilled about the idea of bringing him into their network. NBC’s President, Brandon Tartikoff was not such a fan of the actor initially as he was heard saying that he couldn’t envision Fox’s face on a lunchbox. Despite getting the role, Michael completely refused to allow cheesy marketing techniques including lunch boxes when he was brought onto the show.

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Award Winning Actor

Michael is one of the few actors in Hollywood who can claim they are a three-time consecutive award winner. In 1986, 1987 and 1988, Michael won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for sitcom Family Ties. Following this, in 1998, 1999 and 2000, he won the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV-Series while he was on Spin City. Michael’s long-list of awards have cemented his position as one of the Hollywood greats.

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Family Man

After Michael and Tracy married in 1988, they did not waste any time in having children and their first son, Sam Michael was born in 1989. Six years later, they welcomed twin daughters Aquinnah Kathleen and Schuyler Frances followed by their final child Esme Annabelle in 2001. Michael has regularly stated how proud he is of all four children and they have gone onto become wise young adults. His eldest children abided by their fathers wishes and now attend college.

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Mixing With Royalty

The hype around Back To The Future was so big that the film premiere attracted royalty from across the pond. In a documentary released 30 years after the film, Michael J. Fox was reflecting on the moment that he realized Princess Diana was about to be sitting next to him in big moment. The actor joked, “The movie starts and it occurs to me that I’m a fake yawn and an arm stretch away from being on a date with the Princess of Wales.”

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Parkinson’s Announcement

In 1998, seven years after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s, Michael finally made the news public in an interview with People magazine. His rep released a statement saying “It is important to Mr. Fox to convey that he lives a normal, thriving and happy life, and since his diagnosis seven years ago he has been active as an executive producer and star of a very successful television series.” He told the magazine that he was in the mild late stages of the condition.

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Canadian Honor

Aside from receiving a star on Canada’s walk of fame, in 2011, Michael received the Order of Canada for his contribution to the arts and Parkinson’s disease research. Michael was humbled to receive the highest award for a Canadian and said “To be thought of and recognized as distinctly Canadian is just the highest honor,” he continued in giving thanks and speaking about his Canadian roots, asserting that, “Being Canadian is intrinsic to who I am.”

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Close Call On Concorde

In 2000, Michael and his family were traveling from Paris to New York on supersonic passenger airliner Concorde on a Monday and the following day, that same plane crashed. Michael revealed the family had considered changing their flight to the next day which would have landed them on the plane which went down. He recalled that he heard about the tragedy on the news and was in such shock that he immediately started to weep.

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Michael The Heartthrob

Even though Michael became famous in his 20’s, he was still considered a teen heartthrob due to playing teenagers in sitcoms. His diminutive size, standing at 5 ft 3, meant that he stayed a young icon for a long time and his popularity led him to become the face of Family Ties. The young Canadian was amongst the original group of heartthrobs of the 80’s, plastered all over the walls of teenage girls. Michael’s thriving career in acting certainly reflected this.

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The Michael J. Fox Show

After a lon hiatus from sitcoms, Michael returned to televisions in 2013 in The Michael J. Fox Show. The sitcom on NBC was based on Michael’s life and he portrayed the character Mike Henry who suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to give up his career as a news anchor and focus on his health and family but later returns to work, and the show documents the struggles. Although there was plenty of hype surrounding the show, NBC cancelled it after one season.

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Hover Board Trouble

When Back To The Future his movie theaters, almost everyone was desperate for a real life version of a hover board but Michael J. Fox was the only one who was seen riding one. The hover board was created by graphics, but Michael had to do his part by riding a skateboard to simulate the movements. Fox did fine in the first movie but in the years until the second, he forgot the skill and had to relearn it.

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Childhood Dreams

Growing up in Canada, Michael had dreams of being a National Hockey League player and would regularly play with his friends. However, due to his small stature he couldn’t play as effectively as the others and it became an issue when he tried to improve his game. When his hockey dreams were crushed, he found a new love for acting, art and music in his early teens and focused his attention to making it big in the arts.

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Carrie On

At the height of both of their careers in the 1980’s, Michael dated Sarah Jessica Parker in a romance which had the media desperate for the gossip. The Sex and the City actress was in high demand by many actors in Hollywood but she decided to go for the Spin City actor. Michael and Jessica’s relationship lasted just a year but the details of their relationship weren’t public knowledge. However, they were often photographed together. From this, many speculated if their relationship was a PR move.

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Special Sneakers

In 2016, Nike teamed up with Michael to produce a pair of sneakers that matched the ones Marty McFly wore in Back To The Future II. The famous self-lacing kicks were produced by the sportswear brand and only 89 pairs were made available. However, the shoes were not for purchase and the only way to grab a pair was to enter a raffle for $10 with all proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which aims to tackle Parkinson’s disease.

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Luxury Homes

Thanks to his lucrative movie and TV deals, Michael J. Fox boasts quite the impressive real estate portfolio. In 2008, he snapped up an impressive 6 bedroom, 7.5 bathroom home in Southhampton, New York for $6.3 million. Following this, in 2012, Michael and his wife Tracy Pollan presented their beautiful Manhattan apartment in famed magazine, Architectural Digest. The Upper East Side pad was renovated in order to rejuvenate the place they raised their four children in with a more sophisticated and expensive style.

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Philanthropy

In 2000, Michael founded The Michael J. Fox Foundation which is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through research and development. Through the $650 million investment into the organization, it has become the largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson’s research worldwide. In 2010, the Foundation launch the first large-scale clinical study which cost them $45 million over a 5 year period. The groundbreaking research from Michael’s Foundation has assisted millions of people suffering with the disease and has enabled them to try and keep it at bay.

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Olympic Ambassador

At the 2010 closing ceremony of the Vancouver Winter Olympics, Michael J. Fox spoke as an ambassador for his country. He said that despite the fact that he made his success in the States, Canada will always have his heart and he would always support them over anyone else. In his comedic speech as part of the “I Am Canadian” segment, Fox pledged his allegiance to his home. Almost immediately after this, he was given the highest honor award for a Canadian.

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Time 100

In 2007, Time magazine named Michael J. Fox in their 100 people of the year. His name and bio appeared under the ‘heroes and pioneers’ section and the article delved into his incredible work, being a legendary actor and his philanthropy for Parkinson’s disease. The magazine stated “He is to be celebrated for his work, his kindness, his humor under duress, and for a noble heart.” Michael also appeared in the list the previous year for his dedication to stem-cell research through his foundation.

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IStay Away, Tay

Michael has always considered himself a protective father and when he was asked if his 23-year-old son was secretly dating Taylor Swift in an interview. Michael then turn around and categorically said, “No. No … Just back off, I don’t keep up with it all, but Taylor Swift writes songs about everybody she goes out with, right?” He further quipped “What a way to build a career.” Taylor must have heard the message loud and clear as there were no further rumors with the eldest Fox.

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No Pity For Michael

In all of Michael’s advocacy for Parkinson’s disease, he has always maintained he is strong and won’t let the disease get the better of him. In regard to his work, he has stated that he is thankful that people think of him as the incredible actor he is without pitying his diagnosis. He spoke about the way people treat him explaining that, “Because of all the things I’ve done, nobody pities me, and that’s great. I couldn’t stand it.”

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Michael’s Troubles

In a revealing interview, Michael admitted that in the late 80’s, his drinking got out of control when he became increasingly aware of the staring and whispering. He said that “I come from a Canadian background: you drink to the point of saturation.” His admission surprised many people as he appeared to be one of the actors that had total control of his life who didn’t turn to addiction in order to cope with the fame and success.

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First Impressions

Michael and Tracy Pollan famously worked together on Family Ties but their relationship did not get off to the best start. Pollan spoke of her first impressions of Michael stating,  “He was feeling good about himself. I think I thought he was kind of full of himself. And then we started to work together and I got a completely different impression and how completely opposite from that he was—just funny and so smart.”

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Coping With Parkinson’s

Michael’s relapse for his alcoholism came at a difficult time in his life while he was trying to understand and take hold of his Parkinson’s diagnosis. He admitted, “I used to drink to party, but then I was drinking alone, every day.  It was about a year of a knife fight in a closet, where I just didn’t have my tools to deal with it. But then after that I went to therapy, and it all started to get really clear to me.”

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Honorary Degree

Despite leaving high school before graduating, Michael was able to get a second chance at degree. In 2017, Michael was awarded a doctorate from Stony Brook University for his dedication to the fine arts. University President Dr Samuel L. Stanley Jr., the university’s president “it is highly appropriate for Stony Brook University to recognize his many contributions as they continue to transform the lives of so many, just as our graduates are empowered by their Stony Brook degree to make an equally positive impact on the world.”

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Bigger Picture

Michael has been open about his life with Parkinson’s but has insisted that he has never felt “cheated” by his condition. Instead, he focused on the journey it had taken him on, explaining “It’s been a detour that I wouldn’t have planned, but it’s really led me to amazing places.” He continued in saying that his advocacy work with his foundation has given him so much purpose in his life and said it is “certainly bigger than being on TV every Thursday for half an hour.”

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Sitcom Romances

In 2016, Will & Grace star Megan Mullally revealed that her and Michael had a secret romance in the 80’s. The successful sitcom stars were said to have gone on a handful of dates but they struggled in hiding their fling. Megan revealed “I remember being in the car and the car pulling up next and seeing him and people screaming and going crazy.” Although it was short-lived, neither one of them were single for two long and they found their long-term partners soon after.

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Michael’s Denial

When Michael was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s he was in denial and took a long time to come to terms with the prognosis. For seven years he lived in secrecy, often forgoing his medication to forget about his tough reality. However, when he did start to deal with it, he went all in and underwent all the correct processes to slow down the progression of the condition. He was expected to be disabled by 2017 but has defied all odds.

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Escaping Death

Michael has been known to be rather injury prone by his closest call came on the set of Back To The Future III. In one of the scenes, Marty was being hung by villains and in order to get the best shot, Michael had to agree to have a rope around his neck. A special mechanism was put in place to stop him from actually getting hung but the machine failed and Michael was swinging from the rope and being starved of oxygen!

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Tracy’s Suffering

Michael and Tracy have been married for 29 years and she has stood by him through everything. Due to Michael’s condition, many speculated that his wife was struggling and was forced to put up with everything but the actor was quick to shut down the rumors. He spoke of his wife’s amazing attitude saying, “I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for Tracy, I don’t doubt that. People picture Tracy as this paragon of stoicism, this long-suffering wife, and that’s all b*******.”

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Through The Good And Bad

The long-term couple have managed to have a mutual respect understanding of their scenario and take it with a pinch of salt. He said of their commitment to each other, “When I told her about the Parkinson’s I said to her, ‘Are you in for this?’ and she said, ‘I’m in for it.’ And that was it. It was still a struggle but that was a really great moment. She is so funny and she puts up with my happy idiot persona.”

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Money Struggles

When Michael first moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting, his first role did not come for a while and he became severely strapped for cash. The actor admitted he had to load up on cheap mac and cheese as that was all he could afford to eat. The struggling actor sold half of a sectional couch to his neighbor and sold paper back books to the local bookstore for extra money and also had to borrow money for rent from his parents.

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