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SYFY WIRE Back to the Future

Back to the Future's Michael J. Fox Opens Up About Facing Death: 'I Don't Fear That'

The actor and philanthropist knows the reality of his illness, but it's not stopping him.

By Matthew Jackson

Michael J. Fox has been living with Parkinson's Disease for a very long time now. The actor and philanthropist, best known for blockbusters like Back to the Future and sitcoms like Family Ties and Spin City, is very aware that not every Parkinson's patient can boast more than three decades of living with the disease, not to mention continuing to train his body to keep moving every day. But he's also aware that one day his energy will run out.

“One day I’ll run out of gas,” Fox said in a frank new interview with Town & Country. “One day I’ll just say, ‘It’s not going to happen. I’m not going out today.’ If that comes, I’ll allow myself that. I’m 62 years old. Certainly, if I were to pass away tomorrow, it would be premature, but it wouldn’t be unheard of. And so, no, I don’t fear that.”

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Michael J. Fox

In the same interview, Fox acknowledged that living with his disease, which he was able to successfully keep private for the first decade after his diagnosis while he continued working as an actor, has gotten harder in recent years. He's suffered more frequent falls, which have led to broken bones, and at one point he even had to have surgery on an unrelated tumor, which brought on intense physical therapy to get himself walking again.

At one point, a broken hand led to an infection which meant he "almost lost" the appendage. Thanks to Davis Guggenheim's documentary Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, the public has become more aware of Fox's physical struggles. He even took a fall onstage at a convention earlier this year, luckily tumbling right into a couch. 

But none of it means Fox is stopping. On the entertainment front, he's had a very busy year, going on a promotional tour for Still and appearing at several conventions along with his Back to the Future castmates. On the philanthropic front, of course, he's still working closely with the Michael J. Fox Foundation to advance Parkinson's research, an effort that's made significant progress in the time since he founded the nonprofit more than 20 years ago. 

“When I was diagnosed, it was like a drunk driving test,” Fox said of the disease. “Now we can say, ‘You have this protein, and we know that you have Parkinson’s.’ It opens the gates for pharmaceutical companies to come in and say, ‘We’ve got a target and we’re going to dump money into it,’ and when they dump money into it, good things happen.”

For more information on Fox's fight to advance Parkinson's research, visit the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Want more of Michael J. Fox? Stream the entire Back to the Future trilogy on Peacock now!