This eldest son of legendary Hollywood actor Kirk Douglas eventually developed into a legitimate double threat. His track record for selling movies is unrivaled by any of his actor-producer peers, but his early years gave little indication of the power he would one day wield within the industry. Introduced to filmmaking on the sets of his father's films, Michael Douglas came to acting reluctantly when forced to pick a major his junior year at UC Santa Barbara and began working painfully at it, prompting Kirk to say, "Michael was terrible" (Us, August 1998) after seeing him in a college production of "As You Like It". Still, the younger Douglas was handsome, and there was in his eyes, his jaw, his hairline and his voice something of his father, intangible, heroic qualities that would later enable him to enjoy great success as flawed, venal characters without totally alienating audience affection. A self-professed "hippie", he began in some fairly typical features, portraying idealistic youths confronting the issues of the day ("Hail, Hero", 1969; "Adam at 6 A.M.", 1970; "Summertree", 1971), and upped his profile as co-star (with Karl Malden) of the TV cop drama "The Streets of San Francisco" (ABC, from 1972 to 1975).
Douglas was little more than a blip on the radar screen when he hit a home run with his feature producing debut, 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 Patrick McMurphy on stage, had owned the film rights for a decade, hoping to reprise on celluloid the feisty misfit who inspires his fellow "loonies" to assert themselves, but the son persuaded Dad to lose that dream and allow him to get the picture made. The results were runaway box-office returns and a sweep of the top five Oscars, the first time that had happened since "It Happened One Night" (1934). Douglas shared Best Picture honors with Saul Zaentz, and Kirk made a lot of money and was undoubtedly proud, though it must have hurt to see his TV actor son taking home an Oscar while his own cupboard was bare. Douglas then joined forces with Jane Fonda's IPC Films to co-produce (as well as star alongside Fonda and Jack Lemmon) "The China Syndrome" (1979), which benefited greatly from the fortuitous timing of the near meltdown crisis at the Three Mile Island nuclear power facility.
Until "Romancing the Stone" (1984), Douglas was more highly regarded as a producer than an actor, but his superb portrayal of the amiable, smug adventurer Jack Colton, a sort of black sheep Indiana Jones, began to change all that. Essentially a feminist take on "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and its ilk, 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 sequel, "Jewel of the Nile" (1985), Douglas found himself for the first time on the annual exhibitors' poll of the Top 10 box office stars (at ninth), even though his preoccupation with producing responsibilities on both films had allowed Turner and De Vito to walk off with the pictures. (In fact, Douglas has rarely dominated a movie, with perhaps the exception of 1987's "Wall Street" and 2000's "Wonder Boys". Despite his $20 million price tag, he's more a complementary player who allows stronger actors to drive the vehicles.) When De Vito's black comedy of divorce, "The War of the Roses" (1989), reunited the three again, he could simply act his part in the satiric commentary on "yuppie" materialism.
If he was solid material lacking star quality before 1987, Douglas finished that year as a potential icon like his father, having discovered himself as an actor. Even though "Wall Street" was more about the Charlie Sheen character, he won the Best Actor Oscar for his infinitely more intriguing Gordon Gekko, the wonderfully smarmy and arrogant corporate raider and high-rolling epitome of 80s excess and greed. "I don't think Gekko's a villain," Douglas has said (quoted in David Thomson's "Biographical Dictionary of Film"), giving some insight to the actor-producer. "Doesn't beat his wife or his kid. He's just taking care of business. And he gives a lot of people chances." That same year, his attempt to get away with adultery jeopardized his family in "Fatal Attraction", but audience's quickly forgave his human frailty to root against the spurned stalker Glenn Close. Perhaps even more with "Fatal Attraction" than with "Wall Street", he had found a role that resonated with audiences, the morally lazy and thrill-seeking Everyman caught in the spider's web.
In 1988, Douglas formed Stonebridge Entertainment, Inc., which produced Joel Schumacher's "Flatliners" (1990) and Richard Donner's "Radio Flyer" (1992), and dabbled in an attempt to revive the failed Victorine Studios in Nice, France. He continued to court controversy in his choice of movies. If the Glenn Close part had been unsympathetic, the bisexual, man-eating Sharon Stone role in "Basic Instinct" (1992) brought a firestorm of criticism from the gay community, but audiences flocked to see Douglas drawn to the flame in Paul Verhoeven's stylish-looking but dramatically uninspired thriller. He also scored at the box office as a nerd gone berserk in Schumacher's "Falling Down" (1993), earning the hostility of reviewers who called the movie "wildly stupid" and "morally dangerous." Douglas produced "Made in America" (1993), a successful comic pairing (off-screen and on) of Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Danson before succumbing to a woman once again (this time Demi Moore) 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.
Douglas left sleaze behind in the charming 1995 comedy "The American President", directed by Rob Reiner and co-starring Annette Bening and Michael J Fox. He was surprisingly light and breezy as widowed President Shepherd, trying to balance running the Free World and romancing an environmental lobbyist. In 1994, he signed a development deal at Paramount, for whom he 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 "Face/Off" and "John Grisham's The Rainmaker" (both 1997). Returning to more familiar ground, 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). As he told Jay Carr of The Boston Globe, "The last thing I was looking for was another Prince of Darkness role ... But it was what was ready," so he turned in another flawed character, plotting the death of his wealthy trophy wife (Gwyneth Paltrow, whom many howled was too young for him) in "A Perfect Murder" (1998).
His next role, as a pot-smoking professor confronting writer's block and his own infidelity in Curtis Hanson's 2000 sleeper "Wonder Boys", won the actor numerous critical raves. Before the film was re-released in order to give audiences a chance to see the critically lauded box office flop, Douglas was in the papers more for his personal life than his professional pursuits with a noted romance and subsequent high-profile wedding to actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, the much-younger mother of his second son. The two were prominently (though separately) featured in that year's "Traffic", a stirring Steven Soderbergh thriller in which Douglas played the nation's newly appointed drug czar who is trying to rid the USA of substance abuse while his own crack and heroin addicted daughter is slipping 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." In 2003, while riding along in the media whirlwind surrounding his wife Zeta-Jones (riding high off "Chicago" and pregnant with their second child, daughter Carys) Douglas earned more headlines than box office when he starred as the head of a dysfunctional clan in "It Runs in the Family," which marked the first time Douglas worked professionally with his actor father, as well as his son Cameron Douglas and mother Diana Douglas, Kirk's friendly ex. 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' nebishy dentist.
After a hiatus from the big screen, Douglas appeared with his father Kirk in director Lee Grant's HBO documentary "A Father... A Son... Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" (2005) in which the acting dynasty openly reflected on and dissected their long and stories careers and their complicated and ultimately loving relationship. The actor then had a full slate of projects in the works, appearing in "The Sentinel" (lensed 2005) as a disgraced special agent to the White House who endeavors to foil a conspiracy to assassinate the U.S. President; "You, Me and Dupree" (lensed 2005), about a best man (Owen Wilson) who stays on as a houseguest with newlyweds, much to the couple's annoyance; and the comedy "The King of California" (lensed 2006), about a manic depressive dad who tries to convince his teenage daughter that there's buried treasure in the San Fernando Valley.
- Also Credited As: Michael Kirk Douglas
- Born: on 09/25/44 in New Brunswick, New Jersey
- Job Titles: Actor, Producer, Assistant film editor, Director, Gofer, Gas station attendant
- Brother: Joel Douglas. born on January 23, 1947; head of Victorine Studios in Nice, France
- Father: Kirk Douglas. star of such films as "Champion" (1949), "The Bold and the Beautiful" (1952), "Lust for Life" (1956), "Two Weeks in Another Town" (1962) and "Seven Days in May" (1964); married to Douglas' mother from 1943 to 1950; later married Anne Buydens
- Half-brother: Eric Douglas. has had highly publicized battles with addictions
- Half-brother: Peter Douglas.
- Mother: Diana Douglas. married to Douglas' father from 1943 to 1950; later married William Darrid in December 1956
- Son: Cameron Douglas. born on December 12, 1978; mother, Diandra Douglas; reportedly spent some time in rehab for alcohol problems c. 1997; arrested in 1999 for possession of cocaine; engaged to Jennifer Gatien
- Son: Dylan Michael Douglas. born August 8, 2000; mother, Catherine Zeta-Jones
- Step-father: William Darrid. married to Douglas' mother until his death in July 1992
- Step-mother: Anne Douglas.
- Wife: Catherine Zeta-Jones. began dating as of spring 1999; announced engagement in January 2000; mother of Douglas' son; married in NYC on November 18, 2000 at the Plaza Hotel
- Wife: Diandra Douglas. born c. 1957; met Douglas in Washington, DC the night before Jimmy Carter's inauguration; married on March 20, 1977; has produced art history documentaries for PBS, "Frederic Remington: The Truth of Other Days" (1991) and "Beatrice Wood: Mama of Dada" (1993); has a NYC-based production company named Wild Wolf Productions; separated in 1995; filed for divorce in 1997; divorced; later romantically involved with painter Sacha Newley
- Companion: Brenda Vaccaro. met on set of "Summertree"; together c. 1970-76
- Companion: Elizabeth Vargas. worked at NBC and ABC
- Companion: Maureen Dowd. writes op-ed pieces for The New York Times
- University of California at Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, California, drama, BA, 1968
- American Place Theatre, New York, New York
- The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre, New York, New York
- Choate School, Wallingford, Connecticut
- Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center's National Playwright's Conference, Waterford, Connecticut
- Black Fox Military Academy
- --- Will co-produce and star in "Racing the Monsoon" (lensed 2005)
- 1960 Was a gofer on the set of "Spartacus", starring Kirk Douglas
- 1962 Worked as assistant film editor on "Lonely Are the Brave", starring his father
- 1969 First significant film role as the well-scrubbed hippie lead in "Hail, Hero!"
- 1969 TV acting debut, "The Experiment" ("CBS Playhouse")
- 1971 Played young music student clashing with his parents over the Vietnam War in "Summertree"; acted with then-significant other Brenda Vaccaro
- 1972 Co-starred with Karl Malden in the successful ABC cop show, "The Streets of San Francisco"; also directed some episodes; nominated three times for the Emmy Award
- 1975 First film as producer, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"; earned Oscar as Best Picture; De Vito had small role in film
- 1978 Starred in "Coma"
- 1979 Scored another big success as producer of "The China Syndrome"; also attracted a little bit of attention as one of its stars, though overshadowed by Jack Lemmon and Jane Fonda, who both received Oscar nominations
- 1980 Injured in a skiing accident and spends three years off screen
- 1980 Played opposite Jill Clayburgh in "It's My Turn"
- 1984 Executive produced John Carpenter's "Starman", starring Jeff Bridges
- 1984 Produced and starred in "Romancing the Stone", with Kathleen Turner and De Vito
- 1985 First made the annual exhibitors' poll of top 10 boxoffice stars, placing 9th
- 1985 Reunited with Turner and De Vito in "Romancing" sequel "The Jewel of the Nile"; again produced
- 1987 Earned Best Actor for his ruthless Gordon Gekko in "Wall Street"
- 1987 Starred opposite Glenn Close in Adrian Lyne's "Fatal Attraction"
- 1988 Formed Stonebridge Entertainment
- 1989 Starred as street-worn NYC cop in Ridley Scott's slick, entertaining "Black Rain", a personal favorite of the actor's
- 1989 Third film with Turner and De Vito, "The War of the Roses", directed by De Vito
- 1990 Produced Joel Schumacher's "Flatliners"
- 1992 Executive produced Richard Donner's "Radio Flyers"
- 1992 Was again fatally attracted, this time to Sharon Stone, in Paul Verhoeven's "Basic Instinct"
- 1993 Produced (with others) the Off-Broadway production "The Best of Friends"
- 1993 Reteamed with Schumacher as star of "Falling Down"
- 1994 Dissolved Stonebridge Entertainment and formed Douglas/Reuther Productions (formerly Constellation Films), a production company with producing partner Steve Reuther
- 1994 Signed a deal with Paramount to produce 12-14 features over four years
- 1994 Starred opposite Demi Moore in "Disclosure"
- 1995 Delivered appealing performance as funny, forthright Chief Executive of the USA opposite Annette Bening in "The American President"
- 1997 Executive produced John Woo's "Face/Off"; also produced "John Grisham's The Rainmaker", directed by Francis Ford Coppola and featuring De Vito
- 1997 Put his handprints and footprints at Mann's Chinese Theater, making Kirk and Michael Douglas the first father and son to have their imprints there
- 1997 Starred as the bored billionaire of "The Game"
- 1998 Named a United Nations Messenger of Peace; his mission: to focus worldwide attention on nuclear disarmament and human rights
- 1998 Perhaps unjustly criticized for starring opposite Gwyneth Paltrow as a May-December couple in "A Perfect Murder", loosely based on "Dial M for Murder"; proved he was still capable of plumbing the deliciously sleazy subtext of thrillers
- 2000 Co-starred in "Traffic", directed by Steven Soderbergh
- 2000 Played a writer-professor in Curtis Hanson's "Wonder Boys", adapted by Steven Kloves from the Michael Chabon novel
- 2001 Featured in the ensemble black comedy "One Night at McCool's"; also produced
- 2001 Portrayed a psychiatrist blackmailed into helping thieves locate a missing gem in the psychodrama "Don't Say a Word"
- 2002 Made rare TV guest appearance on an episode of NBC's "Will & Grace"
- 2003 Starred alongside father Kirk and son Cameron in "It Runs in the Family"
- 2003 Starred in the romantic comedy "The In-Laws"
- Acted in NYC stage productions of "City Scene", "Love Is a Time of Day" and "Pinkville", among others
- Created and executive produced "Starman" for ABC-TV, based on the 1984 feature
- Roomed with Danny De Vito when first starting out as an actor in NYC
- Will star as a manic depressive dad who tries to convince his teenage daughter that there's buried treasure in the San Fernando Valley in "The King of California" (lensed 2006)
- Worked for a gas station when he flunked out of college; named Mobil Man of the Month ("Isn't that on my resume?", he quipped to BuzzWeekly in September 1997)