Ever since his birth, Michael Douglas has been immersed in the entertainment history. He has proved time and time again that he’s a talented actor with a career spanning more than half a century. He’s an actor first and a producer second, best known for his intense portrayals of flawed heroes.
Early Life and Career
Michael Douglas is a son of film legend Kirk Douglas and British actress Diana Dill. He was born September 25, 1944, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. His parents divorced when he was six, and he went on to live with his mother and new husband. He received much of his education in filmmaking by going with his father to various film locations during summers.
Though he was accepted at Yale, Douglas chose to attend the University of California, Santa Barbara. During his teenage years, Michael decided he wants to be an actor, but his father Kirk was opposed to it. However, Michael was persistent and made his film debut in his dad’s film Cast a Giant Shadow (1966).
After graduating, Douglas moved to New York City in 1968 to continue his dramatic training. He studied at the American Place Theatre with Wynn Handman and the Neighborhood playhouse. A few months after he arrived in New York, he was cast in the role of the free-spirited scientist in the CBS Playhouse production of The Experiment, which was televised nationwide in February 1969.
He starred in Hail! Hero!, a drama film that earned him his first Golden Globe Award nomination. His first significant role came with the TV series The Streets of San Francisco (1972-1976), in which he starred alongside Karl Malden.
Success in Hollywood
Douglas became a driving force in the Hollywood industry when he produced a film version of Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975). Kirk Douglas had acquired the rights to Cuckoo’s Nest when he starred in its Broadway production. He then sold the rights to his son, who produced the second film in Hollywood history to win Academy Awards in all five major categories: best screenplay, best picture, best actor, best actress, and best director.
After this tremendous success, Douglas went on to both star and produce some of the biggest box-office hits in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Douglas co-produced and co-starred in The China Syndrome (1979), a thriller set in a nuclear power plant, which was ironically and fortuitously released 12 days before the real-life nuclear crisis at Three Mile Island. The movie was considered one of the most intelligent films in the 1970s.
Despite being successful as a producer, Douglas resumed his acting career in the late 1970s, starring in Coma (1987), Running (1979), and It’s My Turn (1980).
He then appeared in the highly successful action-adventure Romancing the Stone (1984) and in its sequel The Jewel of the Nile (1985), where he co-starred with Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. Once again, he teamed with the same co-stars in for The War of the Roses (1989).
It took him about two years to convince Columbia Pictures executives to approve the production of Starman (1984), which became the sleeper hit of the 1984 Christmas season. Leading man Jeff Bridges also earned an Oscar nomination for best actor.
His role as a family man terrorized by a woman in Fatal Attraction (1987) was one of Douglas’s most memorable roles. In the same year, Douglas also performed as a ruthless financier Gordon Gekko in Wall Street (1987) and won an Oscar for his role.
His on-screen persona is as antiheroic characters is both unctuous and charismatic. Douglas has always been capable of playing characters who are morally indolent, compromised, greedy, weak, without losing that basic potential for being ethical. He’s also known for playing powerful characters with dominating personalities.
Douglas gave one of his most powerful performances in the controversial drama Falling Down (1993). He also produced the hit comedy film Made in America that same year, starring Will Smith, Whoopi Goldberg, and Ted Danson. Later on, he portrayed the title role in The American President (1995) opposite Annette Bening, and in The Game (1997) co-starring Sean Penn.
In 1994, Douglas partnered with Steven Reuther to form Douglas/Reuther Productions. The company produced The Ghost and the Darkness (1996) starring Douglas and Val Kilmer. They also produced The Rainmaker (1997), which is based on John Grisham’s best-selling novel. That same year, they produced John Woo’s action thriller Face/Off (1997), starring Nicolas Cage and John Travolta.
In 2000, Douglas received widespread acclaim for his performance in Wonder Boys and co-starred with Catherine Zeta-Jones in Steven Soderbergh’s Traffic. He married Zeta-Jones that same year. In 2003, he starred along with his father Kirk and his son, Cameron, in It Runs in the Family (2003). He later appeared in The Sentinel (2006), and in King of California (2007).
Douglas reprised his Gordon Gekko role in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010), a sequel to the successful 1987 movie. He won an Emmy Award for starring as Liberace in Behind the Candelabra (2013). He joined Robert De Niro, Kevin Kline, and Morgan Freeman in Las Vegas (2013). He also displayed his comic skills in the romantic comedy, And So it Goes (2014).
Douglas also appeared in the Marvel superhero films Ant-Man (2015) and its sequel Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018).
Fun Facts about Michael Douglas
- Douglas won two Oscar awards: one for playing Gordon Gekko in Wall Street(1987) and co-producing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest(1975).
- He suffered from a terrible skiing accident in 1980, so he didn’t appear in any films for three years.
- When Douglas started out his career in the 1960s, he was living in New York City with a roommate who was also a then-unknown actor. That roommate turned out to be Danny DeVito. The two men eventually made six films together, and both found fame and success in the entertainment industry.
- Douglas lent his singing voice to two different productions: the 1985 film musical of the Chorus Line, in 2013 in Behind the Candelabra, where he played Liberace.
- Douglas had two wives in his life. His first wife was Diandra Luker, to whom he had his son Cameron. They divorced after 18 years of marriage in 1995. He later remarried in 2000 with Catherine Zeta-Jones and had two more children with her.
- Douglas has always had a significant age gap with both his wives. He was 14 years older than his first wife and is 25 years older than Catherine Zeta-Jones. Douglas is exactly 25 years older than Zeta because the two share a birthday – September 25.
- In 1998, Douglas was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace, focusing on human rights and nuclear disarmament.
- Douglas revealed in 2010 that he was suffering from throat cancer, which was later revealed to have been tongue cancer. Reports claimed that the cancer was at stage IV, but he announced in 2011 that the tumor was gone. He underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatment.