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Another way to prevent getting this page in the future is to use Privacy Pass. Check out the browser extension in the Firefox Add-ons Store. Sharing an optimistic health prognosis, the Oscar contender for ‘Wall Street 2’ and ‘Solitary Man’ tells the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter he’s looking forward to the ‘third act’ of career. It’s a cold, wintry day, on Nov. 16, as this reporter approaches the looming edifice overlooking New York’s Central Park where Michael Douglas has lived on and off for the past 20 years.
It’s hard not to be nervous. For months, the tabloids have been filled with sordid tales proclaiming his imminent demise, following his surprise announcement in August that he had cancer of the tongue. The actor, 66, hasn’t yet been seen in public — except through the lenses of paparazzi who wait outside his building — since the premiere of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps on Sept. Last time I saw him, when he received the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2009, he was glowing. But recently he’s been recuperating from three chemotherapy sessions and seven weeks of radiation, so it’s inevitable that dark thoughts cross my mind as I enter his rather nondescript lobby and approach a slightly bemused doorman. Is this where Michael Douglas lives? He nods suspiciously before letting me into a lofty elevator, swishing shut a metal gate and whisking me to Douglas’ floor — and suddenly, there he is. Standing behind him is his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones. Douglas smiles, looking surprisingly well, with his trademark thick hair all there on his head.
Forget everything you’ve read about Douglas. Hollywood to speculate about his health and future. The man is fully alive, alert, deeply intelligent and in person nothing whatsoever like the haggard figure that graces the National Enquirer and its kin. He has to sip frequently from a drink to ease the dryness in his mouth, but that distinctive voice is seductive as ever. Gordon Gekko he resurrected in Wall Street 2 and even to the embattled figure he plays in his other Oscar contender, Solitary Man. His intensely loyal publicist has warned me in advance of this, his first major interview since announcing the cancer, that Douglas might have trouble speaking.
On the other hand, it also has brought him closer to many people, including his famous father Kirk, with whom he once had a contentious relationship. I was worried about my father — and he couldn’t have been sweeter. He was back here almost 10 days. He and my stepmother, they’re a tough, strong bunch. That was reflected in the way he and his publicist, Allen Burry, handled the news of his illness, going public early, giving an interview to People and making a TV appearance on David Letterman.
But since then, the treatment has made it difficult for Douglas to talk, even with two performances in Oscar contention and movies he’s so proud of. So we had to move things up. Normally, they do a pre-interview with one of the producers — he couldn’t because it was a really difficult day. Even setting up this interview has been delayed because Douglas wasn’t feeling well enough.
Following the initial spate of publicity for Wall Street 2, there has been no word from him — at least publicly. And yet he’s been hiding nothing, characteristically. Fatal Attraction producer Sherry Lansing says. Our friendship is something I can count on in good times and bad. When this happened, my respect and admiration, if possible, only grew.
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Amazingly, Douglas expresses a certain gratitude about his current situation. It has indeed been an annus horribilis. 50 percent of his earnings from the Wall Street sequel, dismissed in court the day before we meet. I wish I got out a little earlier. His current marriage couldn’t be stronger, according to friends.
The day after this interview, the couple will go to a nearby spa for a few days to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary. Right now, they seem utterly at ease. Zeta-Jones, looking just as beautiful in person as onscreen, dressed in an elegant black outfit, fixes me some very British Tetley’s tea, casually laying her hand on Douglas’ shoulder before leaving us alone. But predominantly, he’s a very strong man. This has really helped through these last months. He has never lost that strength.
It’s amazing that they almost have to try and kill you to bring you back. Even while recuperating, he’s kept up with the world outside. I try to read up on stuff and stay current. I know a little bit about a lot of stuff, but not in any depth. But the movie business remains fascinated by him. Would you ever think about doing a reprise of Wall Street? Stone prodded him relentlessly to go darker.
At one point, he even told Douglas he was acting like someone who’d never performed before. While he maintains that Stone has mellowed, there were some difficult moments, especially when they came to shoot a long speech Gekko delivers at Fordham University. I kept changing the dialogue and rewriting. He was upset because he wanted to get it down, and he likes time to prepare. I’d love to, but you can either go the old way or the new way, and the new is more accurate. Doing so has earned Douglas some of his best reviews.
But it’s another film he shot before Wall Street that he cherishes just as much. These writers that I worked with on Ocean’s Thirteen, one of them, Brian Koppelman, has written this piece, and I thought of you. It was such good writing and such a great character, flying without a net, in terms of a guy not very attractive. It was two days — it was packed.
But you know, sometimes just that silence between two people who really know each other, you believe. Looking back, he says he’s proud of the picture and pleased with the way Anchor Bay handled its release. I like the movie a lot. It has taken Douglas time to find the sense of accomplishment he has now.
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But you’ve always got some anger. He accepts that his father, now beloved, wasn’t always so. Kirk didn’t have a lot of friends. A lot of that rage you saw onscreen came from the heart. For many years, I also used anger as a false sense of energy. Eventually you find out this is exhausting.
The young Douglas’ parents were almost a definition of how opposites attract. A lovely lady, super-bright — still pisses me off and does the Sunday Times crossword in ink! Growing up in Connecticut and vacationing in Bermuda, where his mother’s roots go back to the 1700s, he was deeply influenced by his stepfather, William Darrid, a much gentler man. He certainly had the guilt, because his father had abandoned him and didn’t pay any interest. The one thing he wasn’t going to do was exactly what he did.
Douglas is only too aware that he’s echoed this with Cameron. Probably like myself at a certain time in my life. Six years after Kirk gave him the rights to Ken Kesey’s novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Douglas got it off the ground as a producer. In his early 30s, he won a best picture Oscar in 1976, launching a career with movies like 1979’s The China Syndrome and 1984’s Romancing the Stone. While producing, Douglas was also pursuing a career as an actor, starring on TV’s The Streets of San Francisco and in some minor movies.
But he rejects the notion that producing was simply a path to stardom. I don’t have that energy to do the first-draft rewrites and work in those partnerships anymore. I didn’t enjoy my acting as much then. When I would do them together, acting would get short-changed. If any film has defined Douglas, it is the latter. His role as the Machiavellian financier Gekko has become so closely identified with him that, in the flesh, one expects him to project the character’s swagger, when in fact one finds the very opposite. As powerful as he is, his personality didn’t resemble that.
If Zeta-Jones didn’t find him overpowering, Douglas clearly was overpowered by Zeta-Jones. After almost a decade in Bermuda, the pair returned to New York two years ago, partly because of Wall Street and Zeta-Jones’ stage performance in A Little Night Music and partly to find proper care for their daughter’s dyslexia, a trait Douglas says runs on both sides of the family, though he doesn’t have it. I do think of myself as a bit of a loner, a bit of an independent. I’m one of those people who, when they’re sick, like to curl up and remove myself. I don’t like a lot of people around. There is nothing you can do to help. He already has started preparing for his next role, the title part in Soderbergh’s Liberace, starts shooting in May or June and which will require special prosthetic work as well as musical training.
I just want to reconfirm that. He’s also planning to take his family on a trip around the world. We just have to make sure we have enough stuff to do so we don’t kill each other! Both projects, however, are secondary to restoring his health. In January, Douglas will have a PET scan to learn whether his tumor has been eliminated. The prognosis seems good: Doctors at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have told him there’s an 80 percent cure rate — something he and Zeta-Jones focus on, in contrast to the doom-laden tabloids. Where it does affect me, it’s the fact that Michael is sequestered in the apartment.
But he really is on the upward curve now. Even so, the illness weighs on him. He’s received advice from everyone and everywhere. Jewish father and a Church of England mother, he has no formal religion. I just saw it as an illness to get over. So I didn’t dig into the bottom of my soul to see what I could see.
It certainly has put a little perspective on mortality, obviously. As we wind down our conversation, there’s a directness, an unguardedness, that takes you wholly by surprise. Cancer has shown me what family is. It showed me a love that I never knew really existed. The Hollywood Reporter, LLC is a subsidiary of Prometheus Global Media, LLC. Enter the characters you see below Sorry, we just need to make sure you’re not a robot.