Michael J Fox receives honorary Oscar for Parkinson's advocacy

Michael J Fox receives honorary Oscar for Parkinson's advocacy

ACTOR MICHAEL J Fox, famous for his roles in Back to the Future and Family Ties, has received an honorary Oscar for his advocacy work which has raised $1.5 billion for research into Parkinson's disease.

Fox, now 61, was diagnosed with Parkinson's, a nerve disorder that causes tremors and other symptoms, at age 29.

As a result of his diagnosis, he stepped away from acting and founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research to help fund the search for a cure in 2000.

"It is humbling in the deepest way to stand here and accept your kindness," the Canadian actor, whose mother has roots in Belfast, said on stage at the annual Governors Awards when he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which given to an “individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”

He told the audience that when he was diagnosed, he was told he only had ten years left to work.

"The hardest part of my diagnosis was grappling with the uncertainty and grappling with the situation.

"I only knew that it would get worse. The diagnosis was definite and the progress was indefinite.

"I told very few people," Fox said. "Finally I felt that I needed to tell everybody.  understood that it would have a huge impact on my career."

"I didn't know if an audience could laugh if they knew I was struggling."

He said the outpouring of support from his peers in the industry and the public at large was "transformative".

This prompted him to reach out to the Parkinson's community, ranging from patients to doctors.

"Once I became engaged in learning about the disease, every interaction, every new piece of information I gathered, every researcher official I talked to, all confirmed the science was ahead of the money."

That was the impetus for the Michael J Fox Foundation, he explained.

Other recipients of the Governors Awards included prolific songwriter Diane Warren, whose songs have been featured in more than 100 movies.

Warren, 66, has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Original song 13 times but never won.

"I've waited 34 years to say this: I'd like to thank the Academy," Warren said to applause on Saturday.

Also honored were Australian director Peter Weir, known for films including Witness and Dead Poets Society, and Euzhan Palcy, who became the first Black woman to direct a film for a major Hollywood studio with A Dry White Season.