A lucky man and his actress wife reflect on sickness and health, love and marriage, and their no-spin family ties.
The walls in Michael J. Fox's writing nook are a testament to what he calls the most significant part of his life; they're filled with photos of his wife, actress Tracy Pollan, and their children. It was in this quiet space that he wrote his autobiography, Lucky Man
, due out this month. But much more than luck has held Michael and Tracy together through almost 14 years of marriage and the challenge of living with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative neurological disorder he was diagnosed with just three years after their wedding. Pollan, the daughter of a prominent New York family, first met Fox—an army brat who'd dropped out of high school to pursue acting—when she played his girlfriend on the hit NBC show Family Ties
in 1985. Pollan and Fox didn't date until 1987, while working together on the movie Bright Lights, Big City
; they married the next year. In 1991, while filming Doc Hollywood
—one in a string of movies, including Back to the Future
, he made during the 1980s and '90s—Fox developed a twitch in his pinky that wouldn't go away. Within six months the twitch had spread to his entire hand, then his shoulder began to stiffen. But he and Pollan (who had a toddler, Sam, now 12) kept his illness a secret. A few years later she gave birth to twins, Aquinnah and Schuyler, now 7, and he took the starring role in the ABC sitcom Spin City
. Finally, in the December 7, 1998, issue of People
, Fox announced the news he feared would shatter his career as a funnyman: He had Parkinson's and had undergone brain surgery to alleviate the tremors.
Fox's career worries were unfounded. If anything, his announcement strengthened the public's support of the man they'd come to know as Spin City
's deputy mayor—a portrayal for which he won three Golden Globe Awards, an Emmy, and a People's Choice Award. But as much as he loved the show, by January 2000, Fox, then 38, felt an even bigger calling: to use his time and energy to work toward a cure for Parkinson's. After appearing in 100 episodes of Spin City
, he said goodbye to his cast and fans and stepped into his role as founder of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
On the day I met with Fox and Pollan, he proudly showed me a small photo album filled with pictures of the newest addition to their family: their fourth child, Esme, born last November. It's clear to me that theirs is a spiritual union—one that defines the way they see each other and themselves. Start reading Oprah's interview with Michael J. Fox and Tracy Polan Note: This interview appeared in the March 2002 issue of
O, The Oprah Magazine.