About Michael Kirk Douglas (demsky)
Major star, prominent producer, and member of one of Hollywood's most prominent families to boot, Michael Douglas is one of Hollywood's biggest movers and shakers. The son of movie icon Kirk Douglas and British actress Diana Dill, Douglas was born September 25, 1944, in New Brunswick, NJ. From the age of eight he was raised in Connecticut by his mother and a stepfather, but spent time with his father during vacations from military school.
It was while on location with his father that the young Douglas began learning about filmmaking. In 1962, he worked as an assistant director on Lonely Are the Brave, and was so taken with the cinema that he passed up the opportunity to study at Yale for that of studying drama at the University of California at Santa Barbara. At one point he and actor/director/producer Danny De Vito roomed together, and have remained friends ever since. Douglas also studied drama in New York for a while, and made his film debut as an actor playing a pacifist hippie draft evader who decides to fight in Vietnam in Hail Hero! (1969). He appeared in several more dramas, notably Summertree (1971), in which he played a dying Vietnam vet. In 1972, he was cast as volatile rookie police inspector Steve Keller opposite Karl Malden's more experienced Inspector Mike Stone. Douglas appeared in the series and occasionally directed episodes of it through 1976.
In 1975, Douglas became one of the hottest producers in Tinseltown when he produced Milos Forman's tour de force adaptation of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which starred Jack Nicholson in one of his best roles. Originally, Douglas' father Kirk owned the film rights to the story. Having appeared in the Broadway version, the elder Douglas had wanted to star in a film adaptation for years, but had no luck getting it produced. The younger Douglas persuaded his father to sell him the rights and give up the notion of starring in the film. The result: a box-office smash that earned five Oscars, including Best Picture.
After this triumph, Douglas resumed acting and began developing his screen persona. His was a decidedly paradoxical persona: though ruggedly handsome with an honest, emotive face reminiscent of his father's, onscreen Douglas retained an oily quality that was unusual in someone possessing such physical characteristics. He became known for characters that were sensitive yet arrogant and had something of a bad-boy quality, a kind of rebellious strength.
Through the '70s, Douglas appeared in three more features, notably The China Syndrome, which he also produced. The film, which was the story of an iron-willed female reporter's attempts to expose the dangerous conditions of a nuclear reactor, cast Douglas as a cameraman. While it was a taut and earnest drama, much of its publicity came from the real-life Three Mile Island drama that eerily occurred the week of the movie's release.
In 1984, Douglas teamed with Kathleen Turner to appear in Romancing the Stone, an offbeat romantic adventure in the vein of Indiana Jones . Co-starring old friend Danny De Vito, it was a major box-office hit and revitalized Douglas' acting career, which had started to flag. Turner, Douglas and De Vito re-teamed the following year for an equally entertaining sequel, The Jewel of the Nile. It was in 1987 that Douglas played one of his landmark roles, that of a reprehensible yuppie who pays a terrible price for a moment's weakness with the mentally unbalanced Glenn Close in the runaway hit Fatal Attraction. The performance marked Douglas' entrance into edgier roles, and that same year he played an amoral corporate raider in Oliver Stone's Wall Street, for which he earned his first Oscar as an actor. In 1989, Douglas reunited with Kathleen Turner to appear in Danny De Vito's War of the Roses, one of the darkest ever celluloid glances at marital breakdown. By the end of the decade, Douglas had become one of Hollywood's most in-demand and highly paid stars.
Douglas has continued to build his reputation as a producer as well. He founded his own production company, Stonebridge Entertainment, Inc, in 1988. The company produced a number of major features, including Flatliners (1990) and Made in America (1993). On the acting front, Douglas found success exploring the darker realms of his persona in Black Rain (1989) and the notorious Basic Instinct (1992). One of his darkest and most repugnantly intriguing roles came in 1993's Falling Down, in which he played an average Joe driven to cope with his powerfulness through acts of horrible violence. In 1995, Douglas lightened up to play a lonely, widowed president in The American President, and returned to adventure with 1996's box-office bomb The Ghost and the Darkness. In 1997 he appeared in the thriller The Game, and followed that with another behind-the-scenes role, this time as executive producer for the John Travolta/Nicholas Cage thriller Face/Off. Returning to acting in 1998, Douglas starred with Gwyneth Paltrow in A Perfect Murder, a remake of Hitchcock's classic Dial M for Murder.
2000 found Douglas receiving some of the best publicity of his career, first with an unconventional turn in director Curtis Hanson's little-seen follow-up to L.A. Confidential, the highly acclaimed Wonder Boys. The Pittsburgh-set human comedy cast the actor in one of his most memorable roles as Grady Tripp, a college professor/erstwhile author slouching toward middle age and having to make some serious decisions about his married girlfriend, his marijuana habit, and his long-gestating second novel. Unceremoniously dumped into the February marketplace, the film failed to garner an audience; in order to capitalize on more mature fall audiences -- as well as to re-position the film in the minds of Academy Award voters -- Paramount attempted a rare November re-release. Though Wonder Boys' second run in theaters did it no financial favors, Douglas' name did begin to pop up in year-end critics awards.
More awards buzz would arrive just before the end of the year with Douglas' part in Traffic, director Steven Soderbergh's ambitious drug-war epic. Stepping into a role originally developed for Harrison Ford, Douglas returned to his more stoic persona as Ohio Supreme Court Judge and newly appointed U.S. Drug Czar Robert Wakefield, who finds himself in an less-than-enviable position when he realizes his daughter is a freebase addict. Though his part -- and for that matter, every part in the film -- was considered a supporting one, Douglas won further acclaim as the film climbed well past the 100-million-dollar mark at the box office. Talk of dual Oscar nominations for the actor was rife, but when the lists were announced in February 2001, Douglas found himself crowded out of an extremely competitive year.
Douglas had other life successes to console him in 2000, however, when he married longtime girlfriend Catherine Zeta-Jones and welcomed their new son Dylan into the world -- though not necessarily in that order. Also formed that year was Douglas' new production company, Further Films; it saw its first wide release in 2001 with the ensemble comedy One Night at McCool's. Later in 2001, Douglas re-teamed with the screenwriter of A Perfect Murder for Don't Say a Word, a suspense thriller about a psychiatrist who is desperate to find his kidnapped daughter.
Lying relatively low the following year, Douglas would lend his voice to the animated television series Liberty Kids before coming back to the big screen in 2003 with It Runs in the Family. A comedy concerning three generations of a dysfunctional family attempting to reconcile their longtime differences, fiction reflected reality in the film due to the involvement of father Kirk and son Cameron portraying, conveniently enough, Michael's father and son respectively. The family affair would continue when Douglas took on the role of a fearless CIA operative prepairing for his son's upcoming wedding in the 2003 remake The In-Laws, yet neither that film nor the subsequent 2006 action thriller The Sentinel -- in which Douglas starred as a disgraced special agent looking to foil a presidential assassination plot -- would ultimately prove to be the box office hit that propelled Douglas back to superstardom. In 2006 the Hollywood legend would go back to making audiences laugh as the unsuspecting father of a newly married woman driven to the edge of insanity by the lingering presence of her husband's charmingly obnoxious best friend in You, Me and Dupree.
It was announced on August 16, 2010, that Douglas was suffering from throat cancer and will undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment. On August 31, 2010 Douglas appeared on Late Show with David Letterman and confirmed that the cancer is at an advanced stage IV.