Canadian-born actor, best-selling author and activist Michael J. Fox will be named an Officer of the Order of Canada, it has been announced.
The star - arguably as well known for his work on behalf of controversial stem cell research as for his role as Marty McFly in the hit Back to the Future movies - will be invested by Governor General David Johnston in Ottawa today along with 13 others. Another 29 people will become Members of the Order of Canada.
Officer of the Order of Canada is the second highest rank - behind Companion of the Order of Canada - and it recognizes “a lifetime of achievement and merit of a high degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large.”
Although the Edmonton-born, B.C.-raised Fox has long lived in the United States with his wife, actress Tracy Pollan and their children (he apparently holds dual Canadian-American citizenship, according to Wikipedia), he told CTV's Canada AM this morning that, “To be thought of and recognized as distinctly Canadian is just the highest honour."
Fox is being feted for his dedication to Parkinson's disease research, according to CTV. Diagnosed with the progressive brain disease in the early 1990s, Fox has focused his creative energies over the last decade on funding research into the disease which causes tremors and spastic movements.
His Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research is now the largest non-profit funder of Parkinson's research. The Canadian branch of the foundation recently gained charitable status, ensuring that Canadian medical researchers can receive the funding they need to work towards the goal of finding a cure, CTV adds.
Fox, meanwhile, is that rarest of actors who has been equally successful in film and TV over three decades beginning in the 1980s. Starring roles in sitcoms Family Ties and Spin City paralleled acclaimed performances in feature films such as 1988’s Bright Lights Big City (based on the Jay McInerney novel of the same name) and director Brian De Palma’s celebrated Casualties of War from 1989.
But the Back to the Future movies (three in all which launched in 1985) secured Fox's rep as a beloved comic actor. More recently, he has loaned his voice to the CGI character of Stuart Little. Click here to see our inMovies retrospective of Fox's greatest theatrical hits.
After mostly stepping away from acting after his diagnosis, Fox has spent most of the last 10 years raising funds for better Parkinson's treatments. He has also authored three best-selling memoirs: 2002’s Lucky Man: A Memoir; 2009’s Always Looking Up: The Adventures of an Incurable Optimist; and last year’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned.
"Over the last 10 years, we've put about $225 million into Parkinson's research," he said.
"What I've learned first and foremost is that biology is hard. Science is hard," Fox told CTV. "And it seems for every 10 steps, there's another step you take backwards. But you hope that it all adds up to giant leap forward.
"We're going to unlock one of these things. Whether it's figuring out how to re-grow cells in the brain, or how to identify the disease before symptoms are resistant, or to discover new genes or groups who are likely to develop the disease – these breakthroughs could be huge.”