Michael Douglas

Michael Douglas is the son of actors Diana Douglas and Kirk Douglas. He was born in New Jersey in 1944. He has starred in some of the most popular films of the past thirty five  years including “The China Syndrome” in 1979 with Jane Fonda. “Romancing the Stone” with Kathleen Turner in 1984, “Fatal Attraction” with Glenn Close” in 1987 and “Basic Instinct” in 1992.

TCM Overview:

Actor and producer Michael Douglas enjoyed great success by avoiding the heroic leading-man archetype by creating smart, flawed, sympathetically human characters. His popularity grew through several star-making hits, including “Romancing the Stone” (1984), “Fatal Attraction” (1987) and “Basic Instinct” (1992) and held strong as he portrayed midlife professionals at a crossroads in “Wall Street” (1987) and “Wonder Boys” (2000). Douglas rarely dominated a movie like his famous father Kirk Douglas had during his 1950s heyday, and, though his $20-million price tag might have suggested otherwise, the younger Douglas remained more of a complementary player who allowed a collection of strong actors to drive a film. In addition to his movie-star status, Douglas was well known as a film producer, garnering a Best Picture Oscar for his first outing, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975), and maintaining his reputation with films including “The China Syndrome” (1979) and “The Rainmaker” (1997). The respected and well-liked actor raised eyebrows, however, when he married the much-younger screen beauty Catherine Zeta-Jones, with whom he later co-starred in the drug war drama “Traffic” (2000). Douglas’ professional output decreased at the start of the new millennium, marked by lesser efforts such as the remake of “The In-Laws” (2003), but it was a succession of tragic events – the fatal overdose of half-brother Eric; the conviction of son Cameron for drug dealing; and Douglas himself being diagnosed with throat cancer – that cast a pall on the venerable star’s personal life. Exhibiting the strength of character he had become known for, Douglas resurrected his most famous character, Gordon Gekko, in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (2010), garnering critical praise and reminding the world that Douglas was still a force to be reckoned with.

Michael Douglas was born on Sept. 25, 1944, to budding actors Kirk Douglas and Diana Dill. The couple was divorced when Douglas was five years old and he was raised by his mother and stepfather, William Darrid, in New York and his mother’s homeland of Bermuda. Douglas and his father had a tumultuous relationship and saw little of each other while the son and his brothers were growing up. After graduating from the tony private school, Choate, in Connecticut, Douglas went on to the University of California in Santa Barbara, where the beach environment and political stirrings transformed the “uptight” teen into a self-proclaimed “hippie.” On the brink of flunking out, Douglas was forced to declare a major and reluctantly chose theater. Anticipating that stage fright might hinder his career, Douglas reconnected with his father and learned some behind-the-scenes skills as an assistant director on Kirk’s “The Heroes of Telmark” (1965) and “Cast a Giant Shadow” (1966). Reportedly, the elder Douglas was not encouraged by his offspring’s acting potential after seeing him in a college production of “As You Like It,” however Douglas did get his theater degree in 1968 and moved to New York where he continued training at the Neighborhood Playhouse with Sanford Meisner.

After getting his feet wet in off-Broadway and regional theater productions, a deal to appear in “CBS Playhouse” (CBS, 1967-1970) brought Douglas to Los Angeles. In early TV roles, he often portrayed idealistic youths confronting the issues of the day in offerings like “Hail, Hero” (1969), “Adam at 6 A.M.” (1970) and “Summertree” (1971). He significantly upped his profile as the college-educated, idealistic partner of veteran detective (Karl Malden) on the TV cop drama “The Streets of San Francisco” (ABC, 1972-1980). The show not only polished Douglas’ acting chops enough to earn him three consecutive Emmys, it exposed him to every aspect of production. Douglas fell in love with the process and eventually began to direct episodes starring his idol, Malden. Douglas left the show in 1976 to pursue the opportunity to produce his first feature, Milos Forman’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975), adapted from the novel by Ken Kesey. His father, who had played the lead role of Randel McMurphy on Broadway, owned the film rights and tried unsuccessfully for a decade to put together a screen version of the feisty misfit who inspires his fellow mental patients to assert themselves. Douglas breathed new life into the project and the result was runaway box office returns and a sweep of the top five Oscars. Douglas shared Best Picture honors with Saul Zaentz and Kirk made a hefty profit, though it must have been difficult for the fading screen hero to see his newcomer son take home an Oscar while he had never earned one himself.

Joining forces with Jane Fonda’s IPC Films, Douglas next co-produced and starred alongside Fonda and Jack Lemmon in “The China Syndrome” (1979), a powerful political drama which benefited from the fortuitously timed near meltdown at New York state’s Three Mile Island nuclear power facility. The following year, Douglas suffered a skiing accident which led to knee surgery and an absence from the screen for three years. He was still regarded as more of a producer than an actor when he returned to the game in “Romancing the Stone” (1984), but his superb portrayal of the amiable, smug adventurer Jack Colton – a sort of black sheep Indiana Jones – began to change that perception. The film profitably teamed him with Kathleen Turner and Danny De Vito for a rollicking, fast-paced comedy adventure. After the trio made the inevitable, successful but critically maligned sequel, “Jewel of the Nile” (1985), Douglas found himself in ninth place on the annual exhibitors’ poll of the Top 10 box office stars, despite never having a track record as a leading man. In 1987, Douglas was handed the first dramatic lead that showed his real acting potential. Even though “Wall Street” was more about Charlie Sheen’s newbie character, Bud Fox, Douglas won the Best Actor Oscar and Golden Globe for his infinitely more intriguing Gordon Gekko – a wonderfully smarmy and arrogant corporate raider and the high-rolling epitome of 80s excess and greed. In fact, it was Gekko’s “greed is good” speech that entered the pop cultural lexicon. That same year, he took what could have been the unlikable role of a husband who endangers his family by trying to get away with adultery, and earned audience forgiveness with his human frailty in the megahit cautionary tale, “Fatal Attraction.” Perhaps even more with the latter film, Douglas effectively resonated with audiences as a morally lazy and thrill-seeking Everyman caught in the spider’s web of his own making.

Douglas reunited with De Vito and Turner in the marital black comedy “The War of the Roses” (1989), with the actor scoring again with a delicious, Golden Globe-nominated performance in the satiric commentary on “yuppie” materialism. Back in the producer’s chair, he formed Stonebridge Entertainment, Inc. in 1988 and went on to produce Joel Schumacher’s “Flatliners” (1990) and Richard Donner’s “Radio Flyer” (1992). In another box office hit resonant of his earlier victimization by Close, Douglas was drawn to the flame of a bisexual, man-eating lover (Sharon Stone) in “Basic Instinct” (1992). The film brought a firestorm of criticism from the gay community, but audiences flocked to see Paul Verhoeven’s sexy and stylish thriller. Around that same time, Douglas went through a stint of treatment for alcohol abuse, and the following year, scored again at the box office as a government employee on a revenge spree in Schumacher’s “Falling Down” (1993), though the critically lambasted film was tagged “wildly stupid” and “morally dangerous.”

Douglas produced “Made in America” (1993), a questionable comic pairing of Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson, before succumbing to a woman once again in “Disclosure” (1994). Based on Michael Crichton’s best-selling novel, the film told the story of a male executive sexually harassed by his female boss (Demi Moore). In a more lighthearted exploration of the battle of the sexes, Douglas starred as a single, handsome, commander-in-chief in Rob Reiner’s charming romantic comedy “The American President” (1995). He earned a Golden Globe nomination for his light and breezy performance as a widowed President trying to run the free world while romancing an environmental lobbyist (Annette Bening). In 1994, he signed a development deal at Paramount and produced and starred in the historical adventure “The Ghost and the Darkness” (1996), but the studio was much happier with two producing projects in which he did not act – John Woo’s actioner “Face/Off” (1997) and “John Grisham’s The Rainmaker” (1997).

Returning to the screen, Douglas had a box office hit as a ruthless businessman whose ne’er-do-well brother gives him an unusual birthday present in David Fincher’s dark thriller “The Game” (1997). After plotting the death of a wealthy young trophy wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) in “A Perfect Murder” (1998), Douglas delivered one of his most critically hailed roles as a pot-smoking college professor plagued by writer’s block in the sleeper hit “Wonder Boys” (2000). Onscreen he elicited sympathy for his bathrobe-clad sad sack, but offscreen the actor received a flurry of gossip attention over the end of his 23-year marriage to Diandra Douglas – amidst rumors of sex addiction and infidelity – and the beginning of his new romance and extravagant 2000 Plaza Hotel wedding to bombshell Catherine Zeta-Jones, 25 years his junior. Douglas reportedly fell in love with the Welsh beauty after seeing her in “The Mark of Zorro” (1998), proclaiming to all who would listen that he would one day make that woman his wife. The two were prominently (though separately) featured in “Traffic” (2000), the Steven Soderbergh Best Picture Oscar winner in which Douglas played a drug czar trying to rid the U.S. of substance abuse while his own crack and heroin-addicted daughter slips into ruin.

In 2001, Douglas could be seen as an Elvis-like hit man in the black comedy “One Night at McCool’s” and subsequently as a psychiatrist blackmailed into treating a patient with key information in the thriller “Don’t Say a Word.” After a long absence from television, the handsomely aging actor had a guest-starring appearance on the sitcom “Will & Grace” (NBC, 1998-2006) in 2002, earned yet another Emmy Award for his role as a gay suitor. The following year, while riding along in the media whirlwind surrounding his wife’s acclaimed performance in “Chicago” (2003), Douglas unfortunately earned more headlines than box office earnings for his starring turn as the head of a dysfunctional clan in “It Runs in the Family,” his first professional collaboration with his father. The father – having suffered from a stroke – and son made the inevitable press rounds, discussing their often complicated and conscientious relationship. Also that year, Douglas starred in the remake of the classic 1979 comedy “The In-Laws,” directed by Andrew Fleming, playing a gonzo CIA agent to Albert Brooks’ nebbish dentist.

After a small role as the bride’s (Kate Hudson) dad in the romantic comedy “You, Me and Dupree” (2004) and dealing with the grief of losing his half-brother, Eric, to a July 6, 2004 drug overdose, Douglas produced and starred in the uneven political thriller “The Sentinel” (2004) but fared better in the little-seen indie comedy, “The King of California” (2007), where he played a manic depressive dad obsessed with finding buried treasure in the San Fernando Valley. Two years later, Douglas proved to be the only saving grace in the wholly unnecessary romantic comedy “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” (2009), a tired reimagining of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” starring Matthew McConaughey at his smarmiest. That same year Douglas starred in the less onerous, although completely overlooked courtroom thriller, “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” (2009). Douglas made news in early 2010 when his eldest son, Cameron Douglas, was sentenced to five years in prison for drug charges. Douglas and ex-wife Diandra appeared in court for his sentencing. Douglas, Zeta-Jones and Kirk Douglas all received a bit of bad press for writing separate plea letters for leniency to the judge, but after the verdict was read, Douglas seemed resigned and relieved, declaring the verdict “fair” and that “I think he’s in a safe place. He’ll be there for a while. And [he’ll] start a new life.” All of the legal drama unfolded just as he released the family dramedy, “A Solitary Man” (2010), in which Douglas received strong notices as a down-on-his-luck scoundrel desperately trying to get his life back on track.

The revered actor’s personal life took another dire turn in the summer of that year when he was diagnosed with stage-four throat cancer. The sad news immediately triggered widespread speculation as to the chances of his survival, even as Douglas prepared for the release of a film resurrecting one of his most iconic roles. In Oliver Stone’s long-awaited sequel “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” (2010), Douglas played fallen financial powerhouse Gordon Gekko, who, after being released from prison, seeks to repair the damaged relationship with his daughter (Carey Mulligan), enlisting her fiancé (Shia LaBeouf) in the effort. Soon after completing his initial round of chemotherapy treatments, Douglas at last received some good news when he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe for his performance in the “Wall Street” sequel. In January 2011, Douglas announced more good news – that the tumor was gone and that his prognosis looked good, leaving him “relieved.”

Slowing down a bit after his illness, Douglas reunited with Soderbergh for his next two projects, appearing in the tense action film “Haywire” (2012) and then, much more significantly, portraying Liberace in the HBO TV movie “Behind the Candelabra” (2013), co-starring Matt Damon as the flamboyant musician’s notably younger lover.

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