Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram

Michael J. Fox Says to Act in the 1980s, “You Had to Be Talented,” but Now That Requirement Is Gone

Photo Credit: ANGELA WEISS / AFP / Getty Images
Photo Credit: ANGELA WEISS / AFP / Getty Images

Michael J. Fox has long been a household name, earning his height in stardom during the 1980s. Since then, he has stepped away from acting for multiple reasons, one of which being his Parkinson’s disease, which has made certain aspects of acting difficult for him. However, he has compared his own experience with fame during the ’80s with how things are now and says it was much harder to become famous back in the day.

Michael J. Fox reached stardom in the 1980s

Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly.
Michael J. Fox played Marty McFly three times, in 1985, 1989, and 1990. (Photo Credit: Universal Studios / Lakmus / MovieStillsDB)

While Fox started as a child actor, it wasn’t until the 1980s that he hit his stride. It came in the form of playing Alex P. Keaton in the NBC sitcom, Family Ties. The television series premiered in 1982 and ran for seven seasons and made Fox a household name. However, it would be his portrayal of Marty McFly in the Back to the Future franchise, which saw him play the role no less than three times, that would skyrocket him into 1980s acting stardom. 

Although these titles may be what Fox was best known for, he had a robust and full acting career throughout the decade. Other films he starred in include Teen Wolf (1985), The Secret of My Success (1987), and Casualties of War (1989). His work in film has earned him several awards, including five Emmys, four Golden Globes, and a Grammy. 

He thinks it’s pretty easy to be famous these days

Michael J. Fox.
Michael J. Fox on April 02, 2024, in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo Credit: Terry Wyatt / Getty Images for The Michael J. Fox Foundation)

In an interview with People Magazine, Fox explained an interesting encounter he had experienced. “There’s an expression I referred to when they gave me an honorary Academy Award — somebody said to me the day before, they were talking about getting this award and being famous and they said ‘You’re ’80s famous,'” he said. “I thought, ‘Wow, that’s cool.’ ’80s famous. Right, we were different. We were tougher. We didn’t have social media, we didn’t have any of that crap. We were just famous. Left to our own resources. And it was an amazing time.”

After being asked if being famous was “harder” back in the day compared to now, he was not shy about his answer. “Well, you had to be talented. That helped,” he said. “We used to bust our a**, our acting muscles and watch other actors and sit around with other actors and talk about acting and talk about it.”

“And now you’ve got people who just go like, ‘Who’s your sweater? What’s your sweater you’re wearing? And what’s that dance step?’ And you’re the most famous person in the world,” Fox concluded.

Why he hasn’t been seen on screen recently

Michael J. Fox.
Michael J. Fox on January 20, 2023, in Park City, Utah. (Photo Credit: Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty Images)

Fox continued to act into the 21st century but officially retired from acting in 2020 due to his Parkinson’s disease. His last major role was in the series The Good Fight, where he noticed that he was struggling with memorizing his lines. The same thing happened during the filming of Designated Survivor, which he also guest starred, and decided it was time to retire from acting.

“It was this legal stuff, and I just couldn’t get it,” Fox previously explained. “But what [was] really refreshing was I didn’t panic. I didn’t freak out. I just went, ‘Well, that’s that. Moving on. A key element of this process is memorizing lines, and I can’t do it.'”

There were other factors as well. “My biggest goal, I think, was to raise a family. We have four amazing kids, and that’s been the big thing,” Fox said about his decision to retire. “And then the other is with the [Michael J. Fox] foundation…[however] if something came up that I could put my realities into it — my challenges — if I could figure it out.” He said that if the right role for him came along, he would consider returning to acting.

More from us: Elizabeth Hurley Explains Why She Wasn’t in the Third ‘Austin Powers’ Film, Says “It Wasn’t My Fault”

Well, we certainly hope we have not seen the last of Fox on our screens, but we’re happy to hear he is fulfilled by the other important parts of his life.

Join The Vintage Newsletter community today and unlock a treasure trove of weekly curated content, exploring nostalgia, history, and fascinating facts from the past.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!