It’s difficult to imagine our favorite Hollywood celebs struggling before they found fame, but the path to stardom can be a tricky one to navigate. For Michael J. Fox, that meant being unable to afford even a cheap fast food meal before his breakthrough on Family Ties.
Fox had already taken on starring roles in his native Canada, most notably as the “me” in the series Leo and Me. However, as a 16-year-old playing a 12-year-old, Fox was likely anxious to beef up his acting chops with more substantial characters. After dropping out of high school just one semester away from graduating, Fox got his dad to help him relocate to the US with his hopes set high on success. Unfortunately, he didn’t have much luck when he first arrived in Los Angeles. As he explained in his 2010 memoir A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future ($15.70, Amazon), rather than following a more traditional path with four years of college, he instead gave himself that amount of time to find work as a steady actor. If he was still barely scraping by at that deadline, he would have packed up and tried something else.
Fox managed to land a few one-off roles on sitcoms like Lou Grant and Trapper John, M.D. His first full-time American gig as a cast member on Palmerstown, U.S.A. only lasted two short seasons. It would be another year before he landed the iconic role of Alex P. Keaton in 1982, which just happened to occur exactly four years after his initial move to LA — meaning he made it before his self-appointed time ran out.
While chatting with AARP, Fox explained just how dire things were before joining the Keaton family. “I negotiated the deal from a phone booth outside of Pioneer Chicken,” he admitted, “wishing I had $1.99 for a wing-and-biscuit combo.” Sure, he can afford all the fried chicken wings he wants today, but does anyone else suddenly have the urge to send him a full bucket right now? It’s just so heartbreaking to think of him going without a meal way back in the day!
Those hard times didn’t last much longer for him, though. “By 21, I was earning six figures a week. By 23, I had a Ferrari,” he said. You have to admit, it’s pretty impressive to go from being unable to afford a simple meal to roaming around town in a hot sportscar. We think Fox deserves every last bit of success he’s found.