The Many Faces Of Michael J. Fox

Published 4 years ago by , Updated March 3rd, 2014 at 6:44 am,

The Outsider Who Finds His Way In:

michael j fox teenwolf The Many Faces Of Michael J. Fox

Michael J. Fox often played the role of the outsider who somehow finds his way to his hearts desire, and eventually back to himself. In the 1986 film Teen Wolf he was the somewhat nerdy boy turned ultra popular…er, wolf, who finds that the friends who were with him prior to his (exceedingly) dramatic change are the ones he values most. He is also faced with the need to integrate the person he thought he was with who he has become, as well as who he ultimately wants to be. It was a silly movie, but a fun one; and one that follows a similar thematic trajectory to many of his films.

As the ambitious young upstart Brantley Foster in The Secret To My Success, Fox’s character had to adopt the false identity of an executive named Carlton Whitfield, in order to fast-track it in the world of corporate America. In some respects the film is the farm boys’ Working Girl. In the film Fox must, once again, circle back to himself and find a way to be the man he aspires to be (rich and successful), and yet maintain the core values of his fundamental self (grounded and real).

the secret of my success The Many Faces Of Michael J. Fox

Doc Hollywood saw Fox in a reversal of his usual character trajectory. In it he plays Dr. Benjamin Stone, the big city slicker, who learns to love the simplicity and calm (not to mention naked supermodels) that country life has to offer. Yet, once again, he must reconcile his ambition with his values. A lesser actor may have brought a sanctimonious feel to these characters, but Fox always seemed — just human. He is simultaneously charismatic and down to earth.

doc hollywood The Many Faces Of Michael J. Fox


Dramatic Turns:

casualties of war 1989 The Many Faces Of Michael J. Fox

Fox turned in several performances in dramatic films, yet audiences seemed to prefer him in more comedic roles. Whether portraying a dramatic or comedic character, one thing that remained consistent was his tendency to play men navigating their moral compass against their desires, and the influences surrounding them.

Perhaps the most heart-wrenching example, is his turn in the film Casualties Of War.

This is the film’s official synopsis:

During the Vietnam War, a soldier finds himself the outsider of his own squad when they unnecessarily kidnap a female villager.

We once again see Fox as the outsider, only this time the stakes are so much higher, and the consequences so much more severe. Fox plays Eriksson, against Sean Penn’s Meserve. The two men represent two responses to war: Meserve gives in to every base instinct and violent drive imaginable, while Eriksson, the younger, and perhaps more naive man, strives to cling to what he feels makes him human and whole. Fox, as Eriksson, must find a way to hold onto his sanity and sense of self, in the face of unimaginable circumstances.

Of course, the true tragedy is that the film is based on all to real events.

Michael J Fox Bright lights big city keiffer sutherland The Many Faces Of Michael J. Fox

Fox played another man struggling to maintain a hold of his identity in the face of the seductive glitz, and the intelligentsia glamor of New York in Bright Lights Big City, where he held his own onscreen against Kiefer Sutherland.

Though he delivered a strong performances in these, and other dramatic roles, there is something about Michael J. Fox, and his particular spark, that is best expressed with light material. Perhaps it is his natural optimism and exuberance. Whatever it is, there is something that feels uncomfortable about seeing him set against life’s grittier circumstances. It’s not that he doesn’t have the chops, it is simply a feeling that we made an agreement with him, and in it, he is to make us laugh and believe in life’s greatest possibilities, rather than illustrate the horror of what life sometimes is.

Continue to Fox’s greatest role: a family man…

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  1. i love his acting since i was young he was in all of my fav childhood movies

    • I was reminded of how much I love his work while writing this :D



  2. good article ive not seen Bright Lights Big City i think i’l check that out
    did use mention the frieghtners -it’s not amazing but it deserves a mention surely more than doc hollywood

    • Hey Fadge,

      Yeah, there was some discussion about which films to include, and the ones mentioned just seemed the most representative of his career path :D. I did think about The Frighteners though ;).



      • @Roth I was just wondering why, but it wasnt really an issue in the slightest, far from it infact. I ment it when I said it was a Good article a very enjoyable read,
        I’d be nice to read more like this most definitly

        • Oh yeah, thanks! I didn’t take that in a bad way at all. It’s just always interesting to think about what to include when you are writing about something that covers so much time. I guess I went with the ones that sort of tell the story of his style/career most clearly…The Frightners, like Light Of Day, were both kind of departures, (though they are very different movies) but I guess could have gotten their own categories.

          I do love Peter Jackson when he directs movies like this – Heavenly Creatures is one of my absolute favorites.

          I’m inspired to check out The Frighteners again now :)

          • always liked the family ties episode were M.j.f gets a job with the suicide hotline utter classic

            • woops didnt mean for that to be a direct reply, my mistake

  3. @ Fadge: I resent that slight against “Doc Hollywood.” I just love that movie. Although I do agree about the lack of “The Frighteners.” Where’s the love on that one?

    I love reading about Michael J. Fox. That “Family Ties” clip was just hysterical. I’ve been meaning to check out those seasons on DVD. This just might be my motivation to move them up on my list.

    Thanks for a fun article.

    • Hey Jessie –

      Thanks! Yeah I loved that clip when I found it :), so quintessentially Alex :). I remembered how much I love his work writing this. As for The Frigteners — I mentioned to Fadge, that here was some discussion about which films to include, and the ones mentioned just seemed the most representative of his career path :D . I did think about The Frighteners though ;).

      Thanks for your comments! Had fun writing this one. :)



  4. Man Roth, what a great thread! I will have to find Family Ties on the net; when I saw that FT clip, I had to look around and make sure no one heard me laugh. Wow, such fond memories of such a great show.

    I would also like to mention The American President. Sure, Fox wasn’t the star but anyone who has seen that movie know he was a big part of it.

    • Thanks! Yeah I loved that clip as well :) Yeah, that was a great role for him as well — so much good stuff from him!



  5. Michael J. Fox did a good job playing Marty McFly in 3 Back to the Future films and I do appreciate him being the best actor. I have sense of personality like him time traveling from 1985 to 1955 in Part I, and Part 2 He time travels from 1985 to 2015 and back to 1955 where Older Biff wanted to find every solution to Marty McFly’s past and future. In Part III He time travels from 1955 to 1885 in the Wild West era and meet up with Emmett Brown.

    Part 4 should say “Return to the Future” for Marty McFly, Jr (The Son of Marty McFly) discovering his father that they both turn back from the past to the present time. Its like Indiana Jones meeting with his son in INDINA JONES 4. See in Part 2, When Marty McFly time travels to the year 2015, how he aged to an old man. That will give the screenwriter David Koepp of INDIANA JONES 4 to do.

    • MJF is done with acting though, it takes too big of a toll out on him, did you see him at the Scream? I applaud him for coming out there and just being there for the fans, but you could just tell it took all he had just maintain control :( Parkinsons is just eating away at him bigtime.

      i do miss Family Ties, there will never be, nor has there ever been a show like that on TV.

      • Yeah I saw scream I thought it was preety bad to see how his illness has been taking a toll on him recently(especially his speech). plus christopher lloyd barly said anything either which looked wierd as hell,
        Although I saw -in the actors studio when he was on it and he seemed alot better health wise

  6. Great job, Roth!

    • Thanks Anthony!

  7. Loved the article but noticed no love for “The Hard Way”… That movie was Hilarious. James Woods and Michael J. Fox were classic in it…

    • ;D yeah – that is a good one. It’s hard to fit them all in! So I tended towards ones that illustrated a general theme :D. Good add!



  8. Beautifully written article. I’m a huge fan of MJF and I appreciated reading about him here. Well done, Screenrant. Another reason why I love this site.

    • Thanks Alex! :) I had so much fun writing about him :)



  9. Nothing but love and admiration for Michael J. Fox. He is fantastic. And thanks for reminding me about his second book — I was so impressed with his first one; I need to read the second!

    I’ve been a fan of his since Family Ties, and Back To The Future, and Spin City, and American President, and and and… he’s wonderfully talented, and with his dedication to the Parkinson’s fight he’s also amazingly strong. I can’t say enough about him. Thank you so much for this tribute to the man and his work.

    P.S. It makes me want to rewatch Back To The Future and Family Ties. *big smile*

    • Me too! Getting the new DVD for BTTF and now wanting to get some more from the MJF catalog.

      Thanks :)!


  10. “The Frighteners” was one of MJF’s best films, I can’t believe this was up for debate?
    MJF, class act, loved his heath related/symbolic epoc performance in “Rescue Me!”,,,

    Amazing inside performance when he’s describing his crippling event to Tommy Gaven. Its a total mirror of his real life/career. In a way very inside and revealing, if your read between the lines/script its a very touching performance!