Michael J. Fox is a beloved Canadian-American actor, author, and activist who has inspired millions with his acting talent and courageous battle against Parkinson’s disease. Though he retired from full-time acting in 2020, Fox built an estimated net worth of $65-$70 million over his prolific career spanning over 40 years.
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Early Life and Career Beginnings
Michael Andrew Fox was born on June 9, 1961 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He began acting at a young age, landing his first TV role at 15 in the sitcom Leo and Me. After more guest spots on shows like The Magic Lie, Fox decided to move to Los Angeles at 18 to further pursue acting.
The move paid off quickly, as he was cast as a regular on the short-lived sitcom Palmerstown, U.S.A. in 1980. Around this time, Fox also started using the middle initial “J” to distinguish himself from another actor named Michael Fox.
Breakout Role on Family Ties
In 1982, Fox landed the role that would make him a star – Alex P. Keaton on NBC’s sitcom Family Ties. As the young Republican son in a family of ex-hippies, Fox’s portrayal of Alex was a big part of the show’s success. Family Ties ran for 7 seasons until 1989, earning Fox two Emmys and a Golden Globe.
The role cemented Fox as a major talent and also gave him the leverage to start securing bigger film roles. He took breaks from Family Ties to star in films like Back to the Future and Light of Day with Joan Jett.
Back to the Future Trilogy Success
In 1985, Fox starred as time-traveling teenager Marty McFly in the hugely popular Back to the Future. The Steven Spielberg-produced film became the top-grossing movie of the year, earning over $380 million worldwide.
Fox then went on to star in the equally successful sequels Back to the Future Part II (1989) and Back to the Future Part III (1990). The Back to the Future trilogy remains one of the most profitable film franchises to this day, with Fox’s salary steadily rising with each installment.
Continued Acting Success in the 1990s
Even while wrapping up Family Ties and the Back to the Future films, Fox sustained a busy acting schedule throughout the late 80s and into the 90s. He displayed his dramatic chops in films like Casualties of War (1989) and The American President (1995), while still starring in comedies like Doc Hollywood (1991) and For Love or Money (1993).
Fox also lent his voice to animated projects like Stuart Little (1999) and Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001). His credentials as both a dramatic and comedic actor made him one of the most in-demand stars of the era.
Parkinson’s Diagnosis and Turn to Advocacy
In 1991, Fox was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease at just 29 years old. He continued to work while privately dealing with the symptoms, not going public with his diagnosis until 1998.
Fox ultimately semi-retired from acting in 2000 to focus on raising awareness and funds for Parkinson’s research. He launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation that same year, which has since become the largest nonprofit funder of Parkinson’s research worldwide.
However, Fox never fully retired from acting. He made guest appearances on shows like Scrubs, Boston Legal, and Curb Your Enthusiasm throughout the 2000s, often incorporating his Parkinson’s symptoms into his characters. He also continued taking on occasional movie roles, last starring in the drama See You Yesterday in 2019.
Final Acting Roles and Retirement
In 2013, Fox returned to TV as a series regular on NBC’s comedy The Michael J. Fox Show, where he played a news anchor returning to work after a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Though it was cancelled after one season, the role demonstrated Fox’s determination to keep working in the face of his disease.
Fox’s final major acting role was on the ABC sitcom Designated Survivor as attorney Ethan West from 2016-2018. In 2020, he officially announced his retirement from acting due to declining health and memory issues caused by Parkinson’s disease progression.
However, retirement has not slowed his passion for Parkinson’s advocacy. Fox continues to actively fundraise and raise awareness through public speaking.
Net Worth Breakdown
So how did Michael J. Fox accumulate his impressive $65-$70 million net worth? Here is a breakdown of his major income sources over the years:
- Acting – Fox’s acting career spans nearly 50 years and includes some of the most successful films and shows of the 80s and 90s. At his peak, he earned several million dollars per film or TV season.
- Real estate – Fox has invested in some lucrative real estate over the years, including a $25 million apartment in New York City.
- Book sales – He has published 4 autobiographies detailing his life and Parkinson’s struggle that have sold very well.
- Endorsements – Fox has earned income from endorsements, most notably being the face of beer brand Labatt Blue throughout the 1990s.
- Investments – His net worth has grown through savvy investments in stocks, bonds, and businesses. As his health limits his workload, investments provide residual income.
While the late stages of his acting career were impacted by Parkinson’s disease, Fox accumulated significant wealth at his peak. He has used that wealth to not only support his family, but also fund his philanthropic efforts to advance Parkinson’s research.
Michael J. Fox’s Legacy
Michael J. Fox leaves behind an acting legacy that includes some of the most memorable films and shows of the 1980s and 1990s. He transitioned gracefully from teen heartthrob in the Back to the Future films to respected dramatic actor later in his career.
Off-screen, Fox’s advocacy has funded over $1 billion in Parkinson’s research through the Michael J. Fox Foundation. By publicly sharing his own story, he has become an inspiration for many people living with chronic illnesses.
At just 60 years old, there are surely more ups and downs ahead in Fox’s Parkinson’s journey. But after building such an impressive career and using his platform for good, his place in Hollywood history is secure. Though he is retiring from acting, Fox’s story and net worth will continue to motivate and inspire for generations to come.
Frequently Asked Questions About Michael J. Fox
Here are some common questions people have about Michael J. Fox’s career, wealth, and experience with Parkinson’s disease:
How much is Michael J. Fox worth?
Estimates of Fox’s net worth range from $65 million to $70 million. The majority comes from his acting career, along with real estate investments, book sales, and endorsements.
What was Michael J. Fox’s biggest role?
His breakout role was Alex P. Keaton in the 1980s sitcom Family Ties. But his most famous role is likely Marty McFly from the Back to the Future trilogy.
Why did Michael J. Fox leave acting?
Fox semi-retired from acting in 2000 due to his Parkinson’s disease symptoms. He wanted to focus more on Parkinson’s advocacy work. Though he’s continued occasional acting roles, he retired fully in 2020 as his health declined.
How has Parkinson’s disease affected Michael J. Fox’s life?
Fox has dealt with symptoms like tremors, rigidity, speech issues, and problems with balance and coordination. He’s said the disease and medications have also caused memory problems. However, he has not let it stop him from living life and pursuing work he’s passionate about.
What charities has Michael J. Fox donated to?
Fox created and actively fundraises for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, which has provided over $1 billion in research funding. He has also donated to other organizations supporting Parkinson’s disease and advocating for healthcare.
Does Michael J. Fox have children?
Yes, Fox has 4 children with his wife Tracy Pollan – son Sam Michael (born 1989), twin daughters Aquinnah Kathleen and Schuyler Frances (born 1995), and daughter Esmé Annabelle (born 1997).
Is Michael J. Fox still married?
Fox has been married to actress Tracy Pollan since 1988. The couple lives in New York City.
What actor replaced Michael J. Fox in Back to the Future?
When Fox was unable to film Back to the Future Part II due to scheduling conflicts, director Robert Zemeckis used recycled footage of Fox from the first film along with actor Jeffrey Weissman to stand in for Fox.
What honorary degrees has Michael J. Fox received?
Fox has received honorary degrees from many universities for his acting and advocacy work, including an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia and an honorary Doctor of Laws from Harvard University.
Michael J. Fox’s acting talent, courageous health struggle, and philanthropic spirit have made him one of the most inspirational celebrities of recent decades. Parkinson’s disease may have forced his retirement from acting, but his legacy lives on through his foundation’s breakthrough research and the many lives he has touched. Thanks to both his $65-$70 million net worth and determination to help others, Fox will continue to have an impact for many years to come.