Michael Douglas might have celebrated 75 bi hdays but he’s not le ing anyone call him old
MICHAEL DOUGLAS IS DONE. Not with Hollywood, no. But with playing the typical roles that catapulted him to fame back in the ’80s and ’90s. The actor with a full silver mane that makes his peers envious is uncovering new ground. He dipped his toes into the superhero genre with Ant-Man and the sequel. He became a prominent human rights and political activist. And now, he’s starring in an award-winning Netflix comedy titled The Kominsky Method. He’s not about to retire anytime soon.
How’s your dad, Kirk?
He’s well. He’s 102 and he’s just discovered Facetime on his phone. So he now calls me every night, which is a bit crazy. [laughs] He’s still very sharp.
Your father is a revered figure in Hollywood. Your mother was an actress too. Was it them who inspired you to become an actor?
Probably. I went to the University of California but didn’t know what to study. In my third year, they took me to the office and told me I had to declare a major. I said, “Ok, I’ll try theatre.” I’d watched my mother on stage growing up, and I’d visited my father on set, so I thought it would be easier ‒ it wasn’t that I had a passion for acting. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do.
Then, my father came to see my first performance and he thought I was bad.
He was supportive, but honest. “You were not very good, son,” I remember him telling me afterwards.
I suffered from stage fright. I used to have a bucket ready because I would get sick before I went on stage. But I kept working at it and the better I got, the more I enjoyed acting. It took me many years.
Was your father a hero to you when you were young?
Truthfully, my father was intimidating. I looked at him as the man I could never be. He always felt much larger than life. So I was looking up, but looking way up.
I was aware that he was a star. He was very busy and worked an awful lot, so he was always bright and positive with me. But at the same time, I think he also felt a certain amount of strain and pressure.
How do you think you resemble him, and in what ways do you feel the both of you are different?
I think I resemble him in my tenacity and my energy to complete a job. I probably have a little more of my mother’s compassion. Hopefully I’ve inherited my father’s ability to help people. He had the classic rags to riches story and I have the utmost respect for that.
Your roles were very different from your father’s.
Yes, to a point. Growing up, I was able to watch my father’s friends, be it Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, or
Janet Leigh, etc. I saw them as real people with their insecurities and foibles. So I understood the work ethic of acting but it took me a little longer to get out of my father’s shadow and establish my own identity. Early in his career, he did six or seven roles playing the sensitive young man, before his breakout turn as a fighter in
The Champion. I also had those sort of roles before I discovered that the rascal, quasivillain characters suited me better.
Talking about rascal characters, how do you look back on the role of Gordon Gekko in Wall Street?
It was one of the best parts I’d got. It helped that Oliver Stone directed the movie. His history with male actors is impressive. Most male actors give their best performance with him. Obviously I got attention for it and I got the Oscar. That role was major for me and helped me step out of my father’s shadow and be my own person. I’m indebted to a great part and an excellent cast.
Why do you think some people consider him to be a hero even when he clearly isn’t?
That has always confused and surprised me. I am shocked by the number of people who’ve entered Wall Street declaring that Gordon Gekko is their idol. I would tell them “Hey, this guy went to jail. He was a bad guy.” And they’d say “Naah, naaah.” [laughs]