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quarta-feira, 21 de outubro de 2015
Back to the Future: a timeline of Michael J Fox’s career
On Back to the Future Day, we time-travel through Michael J Fox’s inspirational life
Thirty years since the beginning of the franchise, we’ve finally made it back to the future. Today is Back To The Future Day – the date that Michael J Fox’s character Marty McFly time-travelled to from 1989 in Back to the Future Part II. The series of films cemented his reputation for comedy acting in American sitcoms, and after he would continue to bring light to the big and the small screens. But in 1991, only two years after the second Back To The Future film and when he was at the top of his game, lightning stuck his own life as he was diagnosed with the degenerative Parkinson’s disease. He hid it for years, but this marked him out for a different future: that of an inspiring man as well as an inspiring entertainer. We travel back through the actor and activist’s history.
1961: Michael Andrew Fox is born
On June 9, 1961, six years after Marty McFly’s parents are supposed to meet in Back to the Future, Michael J Fox is born in Canada to a police officer and an actress. His father’s career meant that the family spent time moving around the country, eventually settling in Vancouver in 1971.
1976: Fox acts in Canadian sitcom Leo and Me
Fox got his first big acting role when he was just 15 in the sitcom Leo and Me, playing the 12-year-old nephew and charge of Brent Carver’s character Leo: a gambler who takes Fox’s character Jamie to live with him on a yacht he won at poker. It was released on CBC five years later. An investigation into the conditions of filming were launched in 2002 when it was noted that four of the sitcom’s cast and crew, including Fox and director Don S Williams, developed Parkinson’s disease in later life.
1979: American debut and becomes known as Michael J Fox
After Leo and Me aired Fox moved to Los Angeles and came to the attention of producer Ronald Shedlo, who cast him in a television movie called Letters From Frank, in which he starred alongside Oscar-winning actress Maureen Stapleton. His feature film debut was in 1980’s Midnight Madness. Seeming to foreshadow Back to the Future, he acted in a futuristic film in 1981 called Class of 1984. When wishing to register the name Michael Fox with the Screen Actors Guild, he realised the name was already taken by another actor, so chose the name Michael J Fox.
1982: Family Ties and television popularity
Fox became a household name when he played Alex Keaton, a young entrepreneur and wannabe Republican politician during the Reagan presidency in the NBC sitcom Family Ties, which ran for seven seasons between 1982 and 1989. Originally intended to focus on the hippy parents of Fox and his Conservative siblings, the show moved to focus on his own character due to Fox’s popularity with audiences. It also won him three consecutive Emmy awards in the category of Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. In a twist of fate that mirrors the casting of now Emmy Award-winning actor Bryan Cranston in AMC’s Breaking Bad, Fox got the part of Alex Keaton because Matthew Broderick didn’t take it.
1985: Back to the Future and fame
The film’s director Robert Zemeckis wanted Fox to play the part of Marty McFly – the time-travelling teenager of the Back to the Future trilogy – from the very beginning. Though Eric Stoltz was originally cast to play the role, and the producer of Family Ties was reluctant to let him join the film’s cast, Fox eventually took the part, shooting the film after his contracted hours for Family Ties rehearsals during the day. It earned $381 million in the box office and spent eight weekends as the highest-grossing movie at the American box office. He would reprise his role in 1989’s Back to the Future Part II and 1990’s Back to the Future Part III. Alongside these he played an assortment of Eighties yuppies and comic roles in films such as 1987’s The Secret of My Success and 1988’s Bright Lights, Big City: an adaptation of Jay Mcinerney's novel of the same name criticising the excesses of the era. He also appeared alongside Sean Penn in Casualties of War, a gritty war film.
1991: Parkinson’s diagnosis
Aged only 30 and enjoying the peak of his Hollywood success, Fox went to see a doctor after noticing a twitch in his finger. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, a neurological disease which causes parts of the body to move involuntarily, resulting in debilitating tremors. His doctor told Fox he’d only be able to carry on acting for another decade before the illness became too serious for him to work.
He decided to hide his condition in case this would put people off hiring him. He continued acting in films such as 1993’s For Love or Money, but his cinematic career slowed down and the roles became smaller. He turned to voice-acting in live-action films such as Disney’s Homeward Bound and Stuart Little films. His last major film role was a psychic in 1996’s horror comedy The Frighteners.
1998: Fox goes public with Parkinson's
In 1996 Fox started acting in the ABC political comedy Spin City, in which he played the Deputy Mayor of New York, winning an Emmy and three Golden Globes. He had been living with Parkinson's disease for seven years, trying, with increasing difficulty, to hide his worsening tremors. In his 2002 memoir Lucky Man he admitted that he had effectively been living in denial about having the disease, and initially began drinking more heavily before going completely sober in 1992. In 1998 he announced that he was suffering from the disease and spoke about it in an interview with ABC broadcaster Barbara Walters. He retired from Spin City in 2000, returning occasionally for guest appearances. This would mark the beginning a second illustrious career for Fox: that of spokesperson and activist for Parkinson’s research.
He set up the Michael J Fox Foundation, which has raised $450 million for research to date. While campaigning for federal funding for stem cell research in 1999 he stopped taking his medication so the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee could see the naked effects of the disease. “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,” he said in his memoir. Again in 2006 he demonstrated the true face of Parkinson’s when he appeared in an advert for Claire McCaskill’s Senatorial campaign unmedicated: she was an advocate for funding stem cell research; her Missouri incumbent was for criminalising it. The advert was praised widely, with the New York Times calling it "one of the most powerful and talked about political advertisements in years". It helped get McCaskill elected.
2009: Stem cell research legalised and Oprah interview
When President Obama lifted the US ban on federally funded stem cell research in 2009, Fox spoke out on CNN about its importance for the hope of sufferers as well as medical progress. He also appeared for an interview on Oprah Winfrey’s show, shedding light on what it is like living with Parkinson’s. The nature of his condition changes year to year, he admitted, and the constant movement of his body made the simplest of tasks, such as getting out of bed and brushing his teeth harder. Asked how much medication he needed to take before coming on the show, Fox said, “A boatload”. But he can sometimes go hours without tremors, meaning that he can do whatever physical activity he likes during that reprieve: his favourite is ice hockey, as Parkinson’s affects flowing movements such as ice-skating comparatively less than stop-start motions such as walking.
In recent years he has returned to acting on shows such as The Good Wife and Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, and appeared in The Michael J Fox Show on NBC in 2013-14, which was about a newscaster with Parkinson’s who retires from work.
In 2007 Time magazine named him one of the 100 people "whose power, talent or moral example is transforming the world". They forgot to mention humour. Fox has previously joked that Parkinson’s is “the gift that keeps on giving”, in a sense that him having it constantly allows him opportunities to use his profile in order to raise awareness for other less visible sufferers.