5/8/09 - michael j. fox and tom hanks

In today's excerpt - Michael J. Fox and Tom Hanks during the early years of the situation comedy, Family Ties:

"People start lining up on Gower Street two nights early now, to wait for tickets to [Family Ties]. Families write in and tell us that they're planning their vacation out to California around the availability of tickets to Family Ties. Michael Fox is receiving more mail than anyone else in the United States. ...

"After we had cast Mike as Alex ... we actually had trouble closing the deal. Not because Mike wanted more money, but because his agent, Bob Gersh, couldn't locate him. It seems Mike couldn't afford a phone, and he was using a Pioneer Chicken outlet up on Highland Avenue as his 'office.' Bob had no choice but to wait for Mike to show up at Pioneer, order a bucket of wings, and check in with him. Back then, Mike had a big round sectional couch in his living room, and he was selling off sections of the couch one by one to stay alive. I think he was down to a cushion and a half. He told me later that, had he not gotten the part of Alex Keaton, he was going to give up and quit. Go back to Canada.

"I will watch Michael Fox go from phoneless furniture salesman to one of the biggest stars in show business. And one day, with Back to the Future and Family Ties, he will find himself the star of a number-one movie and a number-one television show. Something that had never happened before.

"In our seven years together on Family Ties, Michael will never miss one day of work holding out for more money. He'll never ask to have his dressing room enlarged or his parking spot improved. Never ask to have his billing changed from third place, where it was in the original pilot. And he will make stage 24 at Paramount Studios an awfully exciting place to come to work each day.

"In the middle of that first year, Michael Weithorn creates the character of Elyse's younger brother, Ned, a business genius who's Alex's idol. And he has a young actor in mind to play that role—Tom Hanks. Tom had starred in a short-lived ABC show Bosom Buddies, and he has a movie coming out soon, Splash, for which there are high hopes. But we're still able to sign him to do three shows for us at a fairly reasonable rate.

"For Mike Fox, it was love at first sight. After the initial reading of the script Mike came back to the writers' room and was barely able to keep from floating up to the ceiling, he was so excited.

" 'I love this guy. I love him.' ...

"Between filming the first episode with Tom and beginning to film the second, about two months later, Splash came out in theaters, and it was a huge hit, catapulting Tom Hanks into the ranks of legitimate movie stars. We immediately receive a call from Tom's agent, basically reneging on our agreement. There's almost no chance that he'll do the agreed-upon Family Ties episodes, we're told, and if he were to do them, it would have to be for at least ten times the originally agreed-upon price. A day or two later the phone rings in my office, and it's Tom Hanks.

" 'Have these guys been bustin' your balls?' Tom wants to know, using the legal terminology for what's been going on here.

" 'A little bit' I have to admit.

" 'Listen, man, I loved working with you guys. I love Mike Fox. Anytime, anywhere. At the original price, OK?'

" 'You drive a hard bargain, Tom. But OK.' "


Gary David Goldberg


Sit Ubu Sit: How I Went from Brooklyn to Hollywood with the Same Woman, the Same Dog, and a Lot Less Hair


Three Rivers Press an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group


Copyright 2008 by UBU Productions


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