Michael J. Fox, iconic actor, author and advocate whose Hollywood career has been marked by worldwide acclaim, honor and awards, launched the Foundation in 2000 after publicly disclosing his 1991 diagnosis, at age 29, with Parkinson’s disease.
Michael Andrew Fox was born in 1961 in Alberta, Canada. A self-described "army brat," Fox moved many times during his childhood. His father retired from the Canadian Armed Forces in 1971 and settled the family in Burnaby, British Columbia. Michael joined the Drama Club in junior high and immediately showed natural talent as an actor. His theater teacher encouraged him to audition for a new Canadian Broadcasting Corp. series, Leo & Me. He won the part and began working steadily on TV and in local theater in Vancouver. By 17, Michael left school and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career.
There was a slight problem when he attempted to join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) in Hollywood — another actor named “Michael Fox” was already a SAG member, forcing this new Canadian arrival to add a middle initial to his moniker. He ruled out “Michael A. Fox” for obvious reasons, and instead adopted the middle initial “J” as an homage to his favorite character actor, Michael J. Pollard.
After a few lean years, Michael landed the role of Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties. The series skyrocketed to one of television’s top comedies. Movie offers soon followed, including Teen Wolf and Back to the Future — the number one movie of 1985 and a role that brought him worldwide fame.
Michael won three Primetime Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe Award for his work on Family Ties. In 1988, he married his co-star, Tracy Pollan, and they welcomed their first child, Sam, a year later. During his 20s, Michael completed seven seasons of Family Ties and starred in 10 feature films, including The Secret of My Success, Casualties of War and several Back to the Future sequels. While filming Doc Hollywood in 1991, Michael developed a tremor in his pinky finger. A consultation with a neurologist revealed a surprising and devastating diagnosis: he had young-onset Parkinson’s disease (PD). He was only 29 years old.
Michael kept his illness under wraps for the ensuing years and worked steadily in movies, including For Love or Money, The American President, and Frighteners. In 1995, he and Tracy had twin daughters, Aquinnah and Schuyler. With a desire to remain closer to his growing family in New York City, Michael returned to series television as Deputy Mayor Mike Flaherty in ABC’s Spin City. The role won him another Emmy Award, three Golden Globe Awards, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. During the series’ third season, Michael realized that he could no longer hide his Parkinson’s, which prompted him to reveal his diagnosis to the press and general public. After one more season of Spin City, Michael retired from full-time acting to focus on advocacy and fundraising for Parkinson’s disease.
In the fall of 2000, he launched The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which the New York Times has called "the most credible voice on Parkinson's research in the world." Today the world's largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson's drug development, the Foundation has galvanized the search for a cure and is a commanding voice in scientific philanthropy. To date they have raised over $1.75 billion dollars and moved the field closer to a cure.
In 2001, Michael and Tracy welcomed their fourth child, daughter Esmé.
After getting the Foundation on a steady course, Michael agreed to return to acting in supporting roles — as long as he could incorporate his PD symptoms into the characters he played. He took recurring guest roles on Scrubs and Boston Legal, and earned his fifth Emmy Award playing Dwight on Rescue Me. Six more Emmy nominations followed for his critically-acclaimed role as Louis Canning on The Good Wife, and for a hilarious turn as himself on Curb Your Enthusiasm. In 2009, he produced and hosted an Emmy-nominated special for ABC, Adventures of an Incurable Optimist, which he filmed throughout the United States, India and Bhutan.
Michael has spoken and written extensively about his predisposition to look at challenges, including his Parkinson's disease, through a lens of optimism and humor. Michael’s autobiography, Lucky Man, became a New York Times number one bestseller. He wrote three subsequent best-selling books: Always Looking Up; A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future; and No Time Like the Future. Three of his audio books were nominated for Grammy Awards, and in 2010, Always Looking Up won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album.
Michael is the recipient of honorary degrees from the following academic institutions: The Karolinska Institute in Sweden (which bestows the Nobel Prize in the sciences); New York University; the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; the University of British Columbia; and Stony Brook University. He has received numerous humanitarian awards for his work, including inclusion in Time Magazine’s list of the 100 people who are transforming the world. In 2000 he was named GQ Man of the Year and received an appointment as Officer of the Order of Canada in 2010. Fox is the recipient of several lifetime achievement awards for accomplishments in acting, including the 2011 Hoerzu Magazine Golden Camera Award and the 2010 National Association of Broadcasters. In total, he has received 18 Emmy nominations and five wins; four Golden Globe Awards; one Grammy Award; two Screen Actors Guild Awards; and the People’s Choice Award.
In the fall of 2022, Michael J. Fox was presented with an honorary Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
A documentary film about his remarkable life will be released by Apple TV+ in the spring of 2023.