Michael J. Fox turns 60: how he coped with Parkinson's, alcoholism and created a foundation that has raised 800 million
At just 29 years old and at the peak of his career, Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson's. The actor had just released the third installment of the film that catapulted him to global fame, Back to the Future, he had just married his wife, Tracy Pollan, and had his first child. Three decades later, Fox has managed to cope with his illness, in addition to the depression and alcoholism into which he fell, and lives in retirement with his wife and his four children.
In 1991, while filming Doc Hollywood, the Canadian actor began to show the first symptoms of Parkinson's. Doctors told him that he would be lucky if he could continue acting for another 10 years, so the news shook his life completely. Professionally, he began to make bad decisions for fear of the advancement of the disease: according to him he told The New York Times, he accepted any role offered, trying to be as successful as possible in the shortest time possible. And personally, depression led the actor to alcoholism and his addiction came close to ending his family.
Fox and fellow actress Tracy Pollan met in 1985 filming the comedy Family ties. In 1988 the couple got married and a year later they had their first child, Sam (1989). After being diagnosed with Parkinson's, Fox began binge drinking. "He used to drink to party, but then he drank alone and every day," acknowledged the actor.
When Fox began to abuse the drink Sam was about three years old and in his memoirs the actor confessed that many of the first memories of his son consisted of bringing his father beers from the refrigerator. Although he never drank to the point of endangering his wife or son, Fox realized he had to give up alcohol when, after drinking all night, his wife found him lying on the couch, unconscious, next to a spilled can.
"Is this what you want?" Pollan said to Fox, who was concerned to see that instead of being angry, her wife was bored and frustrated with the drift of her marriage. The actor decided to start a detox program and go to therapy to recover and learn to live with his illness. And the marriage expanded the family with twins Aquinnah Kathleen and Schuyler Frances (1995) and Esmé Annabelle (2001). In 1998 Fox made his illness public and shortly thereafter announced his first retirement as an actor. Later he returned to work in series such as Scrubs, Boston Legal or The Good Wife, his most famous recent role.
At the end of 2020, and coinciding with the publication of his fourth autobiography, There is no other time better than the future, Fox announced the definitive withdrawal of him. "There is a time for everything, and my time of working 12 hours a day and memorizing seven pages of script are in the past. At least for now I am going into a second retirement. This could change, because everything changes, but if this is the end of my career, so be it, "explained the actor after admitting that he had memory problems.
Fox also revealed that two years earlier he had undergone an operation to remove a tumor pressing on his spinal cord, an operation so complicated that the identity of the patient was not revealed until the doctor accepted the challenge. "Nobody wants to be the surgeon who left Michael J. Fox in a wheelchair," said the actor about his delicate situation, which threatened to leave him paralyzed. After going through a four-month recovery process, the actor had to learn to walk again.
On June 9 Fox turns 60. With a fortune valued at $ 65 million, the actor is now writing and working for his foundation, which in the last 20 years has raised more than $ 800 million for research into a Parkinson's cure.