“The institution of marriage is wonderful when it works, but too many people were sold a bill of goods about its dreamlike qualities. I’d like to see a little more compassion and understanding. I’d like to find ways for men and women to interrelate better.”
That was Michael Douglas 20 years ago when he and his wife of 20 years, producer Diandra Luker, were embroiled in the longest and most private divorce in Hollywood memory. “Women are smarter,” he once said, “and they don’t play fair.”
In 2000, he married Catherine Zeta-Jones who is 25 years his junior. The couple has two children. In 2010, Douglas was diagnosed with throat cancer. Another blow came when his marriage hit the rocks.
At the time, Zeta-Jones’s career was red hot and instead of standing by him during the long post operative period, she decided to be apart. It was reported that in May of 2013, the couple lived separately. She took the kids with her.
At the time, Douglas remained optimistic. At a press conference then, he volunteered: “I thank everybody for not asking about my personal life, I appreciate that, but hopefully Catherine and I are working things out; I miss my kids.”
In November 2013, they reconciled. The entire family got together last year when Douglas got his Star on Hollywood Boulevard.
“I was happy to have Kirk (Douglas, his father) sitting there … and Catherine was there, and my oldest boy Cameron was there. He has had his share of adversities but he’s doing well, he recently made me a grandfather,” Douglas, 74, said about his son (from his first marriage) who has been embroiled in several drug-related offences.
Douglas said receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame was a touching affair. “There were a lot of old friends (in attendance). And they were very sweet, because they just put me like six stars away from Kirk,” he added.
Douglas is not slowing down, starring in the Netflix comedy The Kominsky Method in which he won the Golden Globes for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy earlier this year.
So how does it feel to be a grandfather?
Lula is her name. Her mum is from Brazil and Lula is a Portuguese name. It’s a little hard to believe, I mean I knew that day was going to come sometime, and I guess it’s affected a little bit by the fact that I still have my (15-year-old) daughter in the house.
A lot of times, when you are an empty nester and there is nobody left in the house you’re so excited to get your grandchild, but I still have a 15-year-old at home. But it’s a wonderful feeling.
What were your thoughts during the ceremony when you got your star?
I was thinking, all my three kids – Cameron, Dylan and Carys – want to be actors, as well as my niece Kelsey. So there are four Douglases in this next generation.
Dad and I cover about 120 years and about 120, 130 films. So for him and for me, this kind of immortality, a continuity of generations, is kind of special.
How did Catherine react when you heard the news?
Catherine was excited and happy sharing the same perspective. Our 25 year age difference has her thinking a little bit more into the future.
But I made a real special effort to have her brothers be a part of it and she appreciated that.
Is there an upside to ageing?
I think the positive aspect is you choose how you spend your time rather than letting life hit you and go with the flow.
So, you wake up in the morning and you think about that week, and what are you going to do or how are you going to spend your time?
The kids and Catherine always tease me. I am looking ahead three months, six months for a holiday and what we will be doing.
And there’s much more a sense of planning your time because all of a sudden, you don’t have this infinite amount of time, you have a finite amount of time now.
Does it improve your acting and producing?
There is a definite advantage being older about taking my time in a scene. But memory is tough; memorising lines now takes longer and I don’t like that anxious feeling you get that you don’t have it locked in.
But hey, I am 74, they kick you out at 65. So I love what I am doing and it keeps me going.
How’s your health? Are you cancer free?
Cancer free. I am seven years out and you get checked every year.
I had a little question a couple of years ago with a tumour, which was benign and was removed, but I feel very good. But you have to continue to watch.
One of the things about head and neck cancer is to be careful of any particles that might go down. Head/neck is easier to deal with obviously than cancers of the body.
Having a teenage daughter, what are some of the challenges you and Catherine face?
Catherine happens to be a wonderful mum. And because of her, Carys is a solid girl, a great student, very pretty, a great figure. Both she and Dylan are going to have to do a lot of damage before I get mad.
They have been great students. Dylan is off to college now and Carys has a big career ahead of her, wonderful singer, plays the piano, very pretty. I think you might be hearing from her sooner than you expect. And Cameron as you know has had a difficult time but now he is doing great.
Can you go back in time and recall the first pay cheque you ever got?
Well, my first pay cheque was like US$85 for an off-off Broadway show.
My first movie pay cheque was paid by Steve McQueen who was the producer and it was a movie called Adam At 6:00 AM and I think I got US$3,400.
In the movie I drove this tangerine orange Porsche. It was a beautiful car and when the movie was over, Steve said congratulations and he held up these car keys. He said, “Here”, and I remember being like a kid, “So that is my reward?”
And yes he gave me that Porsche.
What did you spend the money on?
Back then I was sharing a one-room apartment with Danny DeVito on the Upper West Side, so it was on food or booze. I know it wasn’t on laundry.