Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

What famous actor almost caused Michael J. Fox to give up acting in the eighties?

This publicity image released by NBC shows actor Michael J. Fox from the "The Michael J. Fox Show" panel during the NBCUniversal Press Tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., on Saturday, July 27, 2013. Fox will star as Mike Henry, a former local NBC newscaster with Parkinson’s. (AP Photo/NBC, Chris Haston)

Chris Haston/AP

Now it can be told: Michael J. Fox almost gave up acting and was planning on coming back home to Canada back in the early eighties – and it was mostly Matthew Broderick's fault.

As reported by The New York Post's Page Six, the Edmonton-born Fox admitted this week that his career was in dire straits shortly after he relocated to Los Angeles in the early eighties.

"In 1982, I was desperate to have a job in L.A.," said Fox while accepting an award at the Casting Society of America's annual Artios Awards in New York this week.

Story continues below advertisement

"I owed money and my phone was cut off. I was selling sections of my sectional sofa. I was ready to go back to Canada and pick up nails on my brother's construction site."

And the last straw in Fox's career almost occurred the day he went in to audition for the NBC sitcom Family Ties.

"They [initially] wanted Matthew Broderick," Fox revealed. "He'd usually go first for auditions and you'd hear hands shaking. I was always losing jobs to Matthew Broderick."

Ties creator Gary David Goldberg chose the Canadian actor, however, and the show's success lead to Fox starring in such big-screen hits as Teen Wolf, Doc Hollywood and most notably the Back to the Future movie trilogy.

Broderick went on to establish his own respectable film career in hits such as War Games, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Glory. In the past few years he's become a fixture on the Broadway stage in productions such as The Philanthropist and Nice Work If You Can Get It.

More recently, Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1991, has rebounded on television in the NBC sitcom The Michael J. Fox Show.

And although Fox's new show casts him as a New York news anchor (also with Parkinson's) struggling to make a TV comeback, many viewers still know him best as the ambitious buttoned-down teen Alex P. Keaton on Family Ties. In retrospect, it's hard to imagine any other actor in the role – particularly Matthew Broderick.

Story continues below advertisement

You be the judge. Could Broderick ever have pulled off the joyful enthusiasm of Fox's "Stock Market Crash Dance" routine?

Could Broderick have possibly matched the sharp comic timing of Tom Hanks (who played Alex's alcoholic Uncle Ned for the show's first two seasons) in a scene?

Could Broderick ever have delivered the line "Who wants to be a Republican?" to a classroom of preschoolers with such unwavering conviction and still receive a huge laugh?

The answer in each instance is probably not. For seven seasons of Family Ties, Michael J. Fox was Alex P. Keaton.

And vive la difference.

Follow me on Twitter: @AndrewRyanTV

Story continues below advertisement

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles as we switch to a new provider. We are behind schedule, but we are still working hard to bring you a new commenting system as soon as possible. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to