Few actors are as well-known, and well-liked, as Michael J. Fox. The legendary actor is also an author, producer and activist. He is best known for his role as Marty McFly in the hugely popular film “Back to the Future.” He was also the star of the television series “Family Ties” for seven seasons from 1982 to 1989. Michael is Canadian-American and holds dual citizenship.
Michael is also a philanthropist and has started his own charity, The Michael J. Fox Foundation, which has earned over a billion dollars to fund research to help cure Parkinson’s disease. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991 at the age of 29 and spoke publicly about the disorder for the first time in 1998. At the time he was appearing in the series “Spin City” but later decided to stop filming to focus on his health.
Despite his diagnosis, Fox has grown both professionally and personally. He has been married to Tracy Pollan, his “Family Ties” co-star, since 1988, and the couple has four kids: Sam who is 32, twins Aquinnah and Schuyler who are 25, and Esme who is 19. Michael has been a devoted father and husband and speaks very highly of his loved ones in all four of his memoirs.
Michael is best known for his iconic 1980s movie roles that took him back to the future and turned him into a teenage werewolf. But this ’80s star who we all might still imagine as a teenager now has a son who is all grown up and looks exactly like his famous father. Read on to learn more about Michael and his son Sam.
Michael J. Fox (1985), (Fotos International/Getty Images)
Michael was born Michael Andrew Fox on June 9, 1961, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His mother is Phyllis Piper, a retired actress and payroll clerk, and his father was William Fox, a police officer and Canadian Forces member. Michael told Inside the Actor’s Studio that he got his interest in acting from his mother. He is of English, Irish and Scottish heritage.
Michael’s family moved around often due to his father’s career. After his father retired in 1971, the family moved to Burnaby, which is a large suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia. According to Michael’s biography on his foundation website, his father died from a heart attack on January 6, 1990, just a few days before Michael’s birthday.
Michael graduated from Burnaby Central Secondary School and now has a theater named after him at Burnaby South Secondary. When he was 15, Michael starred in the Canadian TV series “Leo and Me.” At age 18, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting full time. He gained the attention of producer Ronald Shedlo who helped Michael make his American TV debut.
Michael got his first big break in the industry after he appeared in the American television film “Letters from Frank.” It was after this movie that Michael went to register with the Screen Actors Guild, and discovered that his name was already registered to another person named Michael Fox. According to his memoir “Lucky Man,” Michael did not like the sound of his middle initial, A for Andrew, so he decided to change it and go by Michael J. Fox professionally. This was a nod to fellow actor Michael J. Pollard who was famous in the 1960s and 70s.
Michael J. Fox (2014), (Elsa/Getty Images)
According to Biography.com, Michael first came to fame with his starring role on the hit 1982 TV show “Family Ties” where he played Alex P. Keaton, the slightly uptight, conservative ambitious son who often argued with his ex-hippie, liberal parents. His performance was so outstanding he earned multiple Emmy Awards during his stint on the show. He also won a Golden Globe award for the role in 1989. Slate reports that “Family Ties” was President Ronald Reagan’s favorite show.
In 1985, Michael starred in the major blockbuster “Back to the Future” where he played Marty McFly, that wayward time traveler who almost erased himself from existence. For scheduling reasons, Michael filmed the movie and the show “Family Ties” at the same time.
Michael spoke to The Guardian about the experience and his relationship with castmate Christopher Lloyd. “We were both so focused on what we were doing, and I was also making ‘Family Ties’ at the same time, so we didn’t really hang out. But we became close after the movies, and now we’re really tight,” Michael said.
Fox also starred in several other hit films, including “Teen Wolf,” where, yes, he played a teenager who turns into a werewolf, and in “The Secret of My Success” which is a comedy about a young man who pretends to be a big business executive. After this, more “Back to the Future” movies followed, all of which were box office smashes.
The success of “Back to the Future” was life-changing. Michael had become a household name before reaching the age of 30. He told Deadline in 2019, “We couldn’t believe it worked out so well. Now that I’m 57, It’s like I had been in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’”
Michael J. Fox, Tracy Pollan (1986), (Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images)
In 1991, when Michael was only 29 years old, he was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder that affects the central nervous system. The symptoms mainly affect a person’s motor ability and can cause tremors, slowness of movement, rigidity and difficulty walking.
Initially, Michael went to the doctor for what he thought was a sport’s injury; he had a sore shoulder and a tremor in his pinky finger. After the Parkinson’s diagnosis, Michael struggled with depression and drank heavily. He credits his wife Tracy Pollan for being the person that pulled him out of that dark place. After 7 years of living with the disease, Michael went public about his disorder in 1998 and started the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which funds research to cure Parkinson’s.
Michael told NPR, “It was shocking when I was diagnosed. I was diagnosed completely out of the blue, unexpectedly. I thought I had a sports injury, and I saw a neurologist at the recommendation of my physical therapist. And he very quickly and without much emotion pronounced I had Parkinson’s and that I would – not to worry, I’d still be able to work for about 10 more years. And I was just – you said I was 29, so that was pretty shocking.”
Parkinson’s can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Michael told The Guardian, “I can think of a thousand possible scenarios: I used to go fishing in a river near paper mills and eat the salmon I caught; I’ve been to a lot of farms; I smoked a lot of pot in high school when the government was poisoning the crops. But you can drive yourself crazy trying to figure it out.”
Michael J. Fox (2016), (John Medina/WireImage/Getty images)
Michael mentioned in the same interview that a few of his castmates from the show “Leo and Me” also developed early-onset Parkinson’s, but there is not enough evidence to prove any cause. Michael said that since there are only 4 people from the show who developed the disorder there is not enough to claim a “cluster” so no research has been done.
In 1999, Michael gave testimony before the US Senate Appropriations Subcommittee to advocate for Parkinson’s research. In his memoir “Lucky Man” Michael explained, “I had made a deliberate choice to appear before the subcommittee without medication. It seemed to me that this occasion demanded that my testimony about the effects of the disease, and the urgency we as a community were feeling, be seen as well as heard. For people who had never observed me in this kind of shape, the transformation must have been startling.”
Throughout his battle with Parkinson’s, Michael has stayed incredibly positive. He said about the experience, “Some of those changes are hard. But as limited as I am in some regards, if you’d told me when I was diagnosed that I’d have this life now and do the things that I do, I’d have said, ‘I’ll take it.’ I can move around – it takes some planning, but I can move. I can think, I can communicate and I can express affection. What else do you want?”
He continued, “When I broke my arm, it was relatively minor, but that was the thing that destroyed me. I thought, what further indignity do I have to suffer? What have I done? Maybe I was wrong to think I couldn’t complain before, maybe optimism doesn’t work. Then I came to a place of gratitude. Finding something to be grateful for is what it’s about.”
Michael J. Fox (2017), (Jim Spellman/WireImage/Getty images)
Michael and his wife Tracy have 4 beautiful children together. Although we’re sure that Michael loves all his kids equally and is proud of them, one kid stands out due to the fact that he looks almost identical to his famous father. Sam Michael Fox, who is just about the mirror image of his father, has mostly stayed out of the spotlight.
However, he was chosen to serve as “Mr. Golden Globes” at the 70th Golden Globe Awards alongside Francesca Eastwood, the daughter of Clint Eastwood, who served as “Miss Golden Globes.” These roles are usually filled by the kids of famous actors and actresses who have a desire for the spotlight just like their parents. According to IMDB, Sam also graduated from Stanford University in 2012, which means he’s probably as smart as his dad, too!
Michael’s children just see him as their dad instead of an international superstar. After he tried to tell his children that he used to be a teen heartthrob they did not believe him, except Sam. Michael told The Guardian, “‘Thirty years ago, that was me!’ What did they do? They would roll their eyes. But my son, Sam, he gets it. He knows all about filmmakers and films, so he really understands my career.”
Michael got the chance to spend plenty of quality time with his family during quarantine.“We were always linger-after-dinner people anyway, and now we were lingering and talking about what people were going through. Doing jigsaws, Tracy cooking up a storm, everyone there, these wonderful children and this great wife,” he added.
Michael J. Fox, Tracy Pollan (2017), (Andrew Toth/Getty Images/Museum Of Modern Art)
Recently, Michael appeared in a music video featuring artist Lil Nas X. In the video, Michael plays a character similar to Marty McFly and warns Lil Nas to stay away from the year 2020. “My kids went crazy. They’re young adults. They went crazy. They’re like, ‘You have to do this. If you do nothing else this year, you do this,’ and I did it.” Michael told Today. His kids definitely thought he was cool for that cameo!
Today also covered a story about Michael asking his son for help standing up to a bully online. “Somebody said something nasty about Parkinson’s and I usually let that stuff just go by me. It doesn’t happen that often (and) when it does I don’t really care about it, but I wanted to answer this guy in some way,” Michael said.
Michael did not know what sort of internet lingo to use in his response so Sam helped him out. “So my son said ‘Just do this. Do SMH’ and I went ‘What do you mean SMH?’ He said ‘Just trust me do SMH,’” Michael explained.
The actor continued, “He answers me back ‘That’s the funniest thing I’ve ever read in my life. You’re the king of the internet. I apologize for anything I said to you,’ blah blah blah,” Michael recalled with a sense of humor about the situation.
Michael continued, “I said to my son ‘(What) did you say?’ and he said, ‘Shaking my head.’” Sam is a good son for helping his father stand up for himself. Of course, he had to have some fun with it and only explained the meaning behind the phrase after the fact. You can tell Sam and his dad have a great relationship.
Aquinnah Fox, Sam Fox, Tracy Pollan, Michael J. Fox, Schuyler Fox, Esme Fox (2019), (Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images/The Michael J. Fox Foundation)
What do you think about the resemblance between Michael J. Fox and his son, Sam? Is he the spitting image of his famous father? Do you have any family members who you look like? Tell us about your non-twin twin, and be sure to pass this on to your friends and family members.