MICHAEL J. FOX began acting professionally at age 15 in the regional Canadian Broadcasting Company series Leo and Me. After moving to Los Angeles at age 18, he appeared in a number of television episodes of the acclaimed CBS series Palmerstown U.S.A. by Alex Haley. After a small role in the television film Letters From Frank with Art Carney and Maureen Stapleton, he moved to Los Angeles on his own and was soon at work on the Walt Disney feature, Midnight Madness. He guest-starred on series such as Trapper John, M.D., Lou Grant, Family and Night Court, before being cast in the role for which he would ultimately win three Emmy® Awards, bringing him worldwide popularity and millions of devoted fans during the course of its seven season run -- that of Alex P. Keaton on NBC's Family Ties (September 22, 1982 - May 17, 1989).
When the part of Alex came along, he was not the producer's first choice, but a loyal casting director managed to wear him down and Fox soon became a network favorite and the recipient of approximately 500 fan letters per week. Ironically, it was the flexibility and solid support of Family Ties producer Gary Goldberg that made it possible for Fox to schedule his series and a motion picture at the same time. From mid-January through mid-March 1985, a typical day in the life of Michael J. Fox meant reporting to Paramount Studios for his TV show Family Tiesfrom 10 AM to 6 PM, and then on to Universal for Back to the Future from approximately 6:30 PM to 2:30 AM. But it was his Friday schedule that left both crews shaking their heads in wonder. Since Family Ties taped in front of a live audience on Friday evenings, Michael would rehearse with his TV family from noon until 5 PM, perform two tapings, and then report to the set of his film at 10 PM. The motion picture crew would then film until 6 or 7 AM., leaving the exhausted actor a weekend in which to rest and recuperate, only to start the routine all over again on Monday morning.
"When I first started on the movie, we filmed several special effects sequences, and I remember being a bit intimidated by it all," says Fox. "On the very first day of work, I climbed out of a DeLorean wearing a yellow space suit, into a barn full of smoke and hypnotized chickens. After a while I learned to relax and enjoy all the commotion around me." Upon thinking of all the hanging and flying that Marty does, and the number of devices necessary to implement their successful filming, he is reminded of a saying that he and director Zemeckis would quote in situations of that nature. "Pain is temporary, film is forever."
Michael once jokingly described Back to the Future as a "comedy-action-fantasy-adventure-coming-of-age film," adding, "It's got a lot of everything, comedy, gadgetry and a story that doesn't quit. I call it a $20 investment, because you may have to see it four times before you absorb all the terrific things that are going on in those two hours. I think what made it such an immense hit is that it was cross-generational. Just by the nature of the story, its appeal reached people who remembered the '50s, and interested a whole new generation in the period. It was also a very life-affirming story about relationships, as well as a 'what if?' movie, which is another thing audiences love. It's hard to analyze, and maybe it's best left that way. It's like Mark Twain's analogy between comedy and a frog. If you dissect it, you might find out what makes it work, but it'll die in the process."
Filming the two Back to the Future sequels in 1989-90 back-to-back brings thoughts of happiness and grief for Michael J. Fox. If filming a motion picture and a television show at the same time wasn't enough, Fox also had the added, but welcome distraction of the imminent arrival of his first child, another challenging role which the actor acknowledges as the best yet -- that of father. During the production of Back to the Future Part II, his wife, actress Tracy Pollan (who played his first girlfriend on Family Ties), gave birth to Sam Michael Fox. Happily, the baby's sense of timing was as good as his father's, and Sam was born after his father had completed filming chores on Family Ties. But while Back to the Future Part II brings the actor thoughts of joy of being a father, Back to the Future Part III often reminds him of the tragic passing of his father during the filming of that sequel.
Having completed his work on Back to the Future Part III, the actor reflected upon the unique experience. "It's been a lot of hard work, to say the least. I've lost out on a lot of sleep and picked up a few bruises along the way, but I treasure every moment that I've spent on these films, with these people. I'm also very proud to be a part of a trilogy of films that, if they do nothing else, allow people to check their problems at the door, sit down and have a good time."
Among his work in television and film, Fox has also directed an episode of HBO's Tales from the Crypt ("The Trap") and Gary David Goldberg's Brooklyn Bridge. He directed and starred in a short film called "The Iceman Hummeth" on Late Night with David Letterman, hosted Saturday Night Live in 1991, and appeared in the play "The Shadow Box". His commercial credits include McDonald's, Tilex, Diet Pepsi, Pepsi and Integra. He is also a talented singer, as he sang several songs in the film Light of Day with Joan Jett.
One of America's favorite performers, Michael J. Fox, teams with Gary David Goldberg, the producer who launched Fox to stardom in "Family Ties," in this sophisticated ensemble comedy. Fox stars as Michael Flaherty, the Deputy Mayor of New York City, a man who knows how to expertly spin the most difficult situations and is one step ahead of his own basest instincts.
As the right-hand man to Mayor Randall Winston, Michael presides over a staff that seems more like a dysfunctional family than a group of co-workers. This season, Mayor Winston, prone to the occasional gaffe, is going through an ugly divorce and grappling with his newly single status. Paul, the neurotic press secretary who's perennially out of the loop, will experience ups and downs with his girlfriend, Claudia. Michael's intrepid secretary, Janelle, will be promoted to become the Mayor's assistant, forcing Mike to hire a new staffer. Rounding out the group are Stuart, the chief of staff, who's convinced he should have Michael's job; James, the idealistic young speechwriter from the midwest; Nikki, the efficient accountant with a star-crossed personal life; and Carter, a gay activist who joined the administration last year as special assistant for minority affairs.
Michael J. Fox stars as Michael Flaherty. Also starring are Barry Bostwick as Mayor Randall Winston, Alan Ruck as Stuart Bondek, Richard Kind as Paul Lassiter, Alexander Chaplin as James Hobert, Michael Boatman as Carter Heywood, Connie Britton as Nikki Faber and Victoria Dillard as Janelle. Faith Prince plays Claudia Sacks, Paul's girlfriend.
"Spin City" is produced by UBU Productions/Lottery Hill in association with DreamWorks. The series premiered Sept. 17, 1996.
On February 15, 1995, Michael and Tracy welcomed two more additions to their family, their twin daughters Aquinnah Kathleen and Schuyler Frances Fox. These days, Michael's "family ties" are in New York, where he, Tracy, and their three children call home. He spends his scarce free time enjoying old movies and watching sporting events.
Although, Michael J. Fox, isn't one of the more tributed actors in hollywood, He certainly has talent enough to be. He seems to strike gold with each endeavor. I believe this to be due to his extreme professionalism, and love of acting. He commits to projects, and puts his heart into them. He currently is working with his wife, to stop child abuse. I think that a wonderful human being such as Michael, should have a tribute page, such as this one, and should be recognized for his work, as well as his love of humanity.
"You shouldn't fit your life into your job,
you should fit your job into your life."
"It's made me
stronger. A million times wiser. And more compassionate, I've realized I'm vulnerable, that no matter how many awards I'm given or how big my bank account is, I can be messed with like that. The end of the story is you die. We all die. So, accepting that, the issue becomes one of quality of life." On accepting his fate with Parkinson's.
"I could mix a margarita in five seconds." On the large tremors in his hands.
"It's not that I had a deep, dark secret. It was just my thing to deal with ... I think I can help people by talking. I want to help myself and my family." On his Parkinson's disease.
"To be a happy, healthy, family-oriented person is far more important than constantly trying to be the Boy Prince of Hollywood."
On why he decided to move to California to become an actor:"If you're a fisherman, get in a boat. Don't just stand there
in a forest, saying, 'I'm a fisherman, I'm a fisherman.' I mean, prove it."
"I had a mattress and an alarm clock. It was pretty depressing...
Y'know, wash my dishes in the bathroom sink, and all that crap...
But that's what being eighteen is for." (On his first couple of years in Hollywood)
"Romantic is just...uh...intimate and comfortable. Any romantic situation is not a situation where you're trying to go for some contrived romance, where you've gotta get candles and whipped cream and stuff like that, but where you can be yourself and be comfortable with it."
"You can only watch so many documentaries about kiwis before you
go crazy." (On his 6 month shoot in New Zealand.)
"I don't focus on success...but I also don't focus on failure. I don't say success in an inevitability, but by the same token, failure is not an inevetability. It's just whatever happens."
"I didn't have that much fun [doing movies] the last seven years.
With theatrical film, you sit in a trailer for five hours, then do the
part where you walk up to the door -- not the part where you go in
the door; that comes three weeks from now. You're never sure where the movie fits into the studio's plans -- and when it comes out, you are either praised or you get the shit kicked out of you."
"People in politics are articulate, energetic -- and sometimes,
they have loose morals."
"When my foot twisted, I remembered watching tennis players on TV who do that ankle twist and fall on the court. I used to yell, 'You whining baby, get back up and play!' Now I know how much they were hurting."
"What do you [critics] want actors to think? Do you want them to think, 'This will be an interesting experience. This is an interesting director. I think I'll do it.' Or do you want actors to think, 'Hmm. Where does this fit into the career chart?' If you do, then you deserve 'Eraser.' You deserve factory-built, fed-down-your-throat, giant mega-franchise- protecting B.S. that goes on." - On The Frighteners