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The comedy Back to the Future, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, was released in American theatres; a huge hit, it was followed by several sequels.
Michael J. Fox, original name Michael Andrew Fox, (born June 9, 1961, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada), Canadian American actor and activist who rose to fame in the 1980s for his comedic roles and who later became involved in Parkinson disease research after being diagnosed with the disorder.
Fox grew up on Canadian military bases and moved to Los Angeles at age 18. He won three Emmy Awards (1986–88) for his role as Alex P. Keaton on the popular television series Family Ties (1982–89), where he worked with Tracy Pollan, his future wife. He later starred in the series Spin City (1996–2002), winning an Emmy in 2000, his last year on the show. Fox also appeared in feature films, notably portraying Marty McFly in the hit comedy Back to the Future (1985) and its sequels (1989 and 1990). His other movie credits included Casualties of War (1989), The American President (1995), and Mars Attacks! (1996). In addition, he provided the voice of Stuart Little in a series of animated films based on characters from E.B. White’s children’s book.
In 1991 Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson disease, and he founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research in 2000. He subsequently limited his acting to focus on the illness. However, he made guest appearances on several TV series, including Boston Legal; Rescue Me, for which he received an Emmy in 2009; The Good Wife; and Designated Survivor. He briefly starred in The Michael J. Fox Show (2013–14), a comedy in which he played a news anchor with Parkinson disease.
Fox wrote the memoirs Lucky Man (2002), Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist (2009), and No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality (2020). Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (2023) is a documentary about his life and career. In 2000 he became a U.S. citizen.
American director and screenwriter
Robert Zemeckis, in full Robert Lee Zemeckis, (born May 14, 1952, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.), American director and screenwriter known for crowd-pleasing films that often made innovative use of special effects.
Zemeckis studied filmmaking at the University of Southern California (B.A., 1973), where he met fellow student Robert Gale, who would become his longtime screenwriting partner. Even before Zemeckis graduated, his work caught the eye of famed American director Steven Spielberg, who produced Zemeckis and Gale’s first full-length film, I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978). Zemeckis directed the comedy about three young girls who are obsessed with the Beatles. Zemeckis and Gale subsequently scripted the Spielberg-directed 1941 (1979), and Spielberg served as executive producer for several other films that Zemeckis directed, including his next effort, Used Cars (1980).
Zemeckis’s first major directing success was the action-adventure comedy Romancing the Stone (1984), starring Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner. With his time-traveling teen comedy Back to the Future (1985) and its sequels, Zemeckis began earning a reputation for visual innovation, which he cemented with Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), a feature film that combined the onscreen action of live actors and cartoon characters. In Forrest Gump (1994), the title character crosses paths with several historical figures, including John F. Kennedy and Elvis Presley. Rather than hire actors to portray these famous individuals, Zemeckis grafted footage of actor Tom Hanks into archival news clips. The resulting film earned Zemeckis the Academy Award for best director.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Ben Kingsley in The Walk
Zemeckis cast Hanks again in Cast Away (2000) and The Polar Express (2004), the latter of which marked the director’s first screenwriting credit in almost a decade. The film, which was based on the children’s book of the same title, employed motion-capture animation, a technique in which the filmed movements of live actors are digitally converted into animated images. Zemeckis used the same technique to make Beowulf (2007) and A Christmas Carol (2009). He returned to traditional live-action filmmaking with Flight (2012), a drama about an airplane pilot (Denzel Washington) whose heroic actions on the job are undermined by the revelation of his substance abuse, and The Walk (2015), about Frenchman Philippe Petit’s (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) 1974 high-wire walk between the towers of the World Trade Center.
In the World War II thriller Allied (2016), a Canadian intelligence officer (Brad Pitt) must determine if his wife (Marion Cotillard) is a German spy. Zemeckis then wrote and directed Welcome to Marwen (2018), a drama based on the true story of an artist (Steve Carell) who, after a brutal attack, finds a therapeutic outlet in building a miniature town populated by dolls that represent the individuals in his life. His next film, The Witches (2020), was an adaptation of a children’s book by Roald Dahl; Zemeckis cowrote and helmed the family comedy.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City staged a retrospective of his film and television work, titled What Lies Beneath: The Films of Robert Zemeckis, in 2015.