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The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
Stars of the '80s
Michael J. Fox
Fox on the cover of Rolling Stone,
March 12, 1987

Born in Edmonton, Alberta on 9 June 1961, Michael Andrew Fox was 15 when he began his professional acting career in the Canadian Broadcasting Company series, Leo and Me. Dropping out of high school and moving to Los Angeles a few years later, he made a few guest appearances on TV programs before landing a part in Disney's first PG-rated film, Midnight Madness (1980). His next feature film role was in 1982's Class of 1984. But it was on the small screen that he first achieved  stardom, in the role of yuppie-in-the-making Alex P. Keaton in NBC's hit sitcom Family Ties (1982-1989) -- a part originally intended for Matthew Broderick. By this time he had changed his name to Michael J. Fox. (There was already an actor by the name of Michael Fox, and Michael A.Fox invited a play on words; he chose J for his middle initial in homage to actor Michael J. Pollard.)

Selected to replace Eric Stoltz midway into the production of Steven Spielberg's Back to the Future (1985), Fox managed to juggle his commitment to Family Ties with work in the film by toiling on the Paramount set of the former during the day and then reporting to the Universal sets of the latter, often working until one or two in the morning. He was rewarded for this effort with a budding film career, becoming, in the words of film critic Leonard Maltin, "an engaging young leading man." Audiences and critics alike appreciated his blending of a natural comic ability with considerable dramatic depth. His more successful films during the '80s include Teen Wolf (1985) and Casualties of War (1989). In 1988's Bright Lights, Big City -- based on the novel by Jay McInerney -- Fox gave arguably his best performance of the decade as a yuppie whose life comes unraveled thanks to cocaine.

In the mid-Eighties, Fox was in a much-publicized relationship with Nancy McKeon, star of another popular sitcom, Facts of Life. But it was Tracy Pollan, who played Alex P. Keaton's girlfriend Ellen on Family Ties and then costarred with him in Bright Lights, Big City that Fox wed on 17 July 1988. In the Nineties, Fox would go on to make two successful sequels to Back to the Future and star in yet another hit series, Spin City. (He would earn a total of three Golden Globe awards for his work in this series, to go along with the three Emmy Awards he won for Family Ties.) In a 1998 issue of People magazine, he revealed that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1991.

1980s Filmography
Midnight Madness (1980)
Class of 1984 (1982)
Back to the Future (1985)
Teen Wolf (1985)
The Secret of My Success (1987)
Light of Day (1987)
Bright Lights, Big City (1988)
The Return of Bruno (1988)
Casualties of War (1989)


Critics' Comments
Back to the Future (1985)
"In a role he took over early in production from Eric Stoltz, Fox is smashing. He can reduce an audience to convulsive laughter simply by trying to convince a nonplussed citizen of the '50s that Ronald Reagan occupied the White House in 1985." -- People Weekly

Teen Wolf (1985)
"Fox's performance is remarkably controlled. His natural comic ability adds a little flair to every situation."
-- People Weekly

The Secret of My Success (1987)
"Fox provides a fairly desperate center for the film. It could not have been much fun for him to follow the movie's arbitrary shifts of mood, from sitcom to slapstick, from sex farce to boardroom brawls."
-- Roger Ebert

Bright Lights, Big City (1988)
"Fox is very good in the central role (he has a long drunken monologue that is the best thing he has ever done in a movie.)"
-- Roger Ebert

Casualties of War (1989)
"Casting Fox was a brilliant coup on De Palma's part, since he brings with him an image of all-American boyishness and eager-beaver conservatism. Fox's beautifully acted cowardly passivity in the face of the unthinkable challenges and implicates the viewer to examine his own conscience on the subject of Vietnam."
-- Variety

In the May 1986 issue of Superstars