Michael Douglas plays a ruthless corporate shark in the indie thriller, Beyond the Reach, out April 17. The actor relishes being mean on screen, but in real life the Oscar and Emmy-winning superstar couldn’t be mellower as he puts family first.
Douglas has fought and won a battle with throat cancer and, after a public separation from Catherine Zeta-Jones, the pair are reunited with their two children, son Dylan and daughter Carys. He’s still on a mission to get his oldest son Cameron with his first wife Diandra released from the prison where he’s serving a long term for drug possession.
The father of three, 70, talked to The Mid’s Jeanne Wolf about family, love, and his new perspective on life.
Is doing an indie movie one of the secrets of your youthful outlook?
I think so. I had that battle with cancer and got through it. Now, all of a sudden, there’s this renaissance and this rebirth. I love movies like Beyond the Reach because of the challenges of shooting in tough environments on a limited schedule. It’s exciting for me because it’s like flying without a net. It takes me back to my independent film days all the way to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. It does invigorate me.
When you were becoming a star, was it a challenge to be a parent too?
I certainly connected with the idea that your career comes first. I was aggressively pursuing success and that was my first priority. I think my older son, Cameron, probably didn’t get the benefits that my two younger kids have. Now, I’ve changed my priorities. I’ve settled down. It’s hard to juggle raising children when you’re getting started. So I’m happy to see more and more people waiting until a little later in life to enjoy their kids, not trying to raise them and start a career at the same time.
I have to ask about Cameron. I know that you’ve worked hard to stay in touch with him while he’s in prison and you’ve been a fierce fighter on his behalf. How’s he doing?
Well, he’s holding up pretty well. It’s a pretty rough deal for him after being convicted as a non-violent drug offender. He’s been behind bars for more than six years. I worry about him. He made a lot of mistakes in his life and, boy, is he paying for them. He still seems to have a really great heart. I just saw him a few days ago. Hopefully, by next year, things may be looking up.
Talk about a new perspective, you have a teenager again now.
Boy do I ever. My son Dylan is 14. I’d forgotten what it’s like. They don’t think you can do anything right. They have all the answers. Somebody advised me to just take a break until about college age and maybe he’ll come back and say, “Wow, Dad, you’ve really learned a lot over the last four years. You’re a lot more intelligent than I thought you were.”
You and Catherine are together again. Do you think the relationship is somehow stronger after your separation?
Absolutely. I think every relationship or marriage has some adversity in it. I’m proud of how Catherine and I have come through that and have a closer bond and more love than we’ve ever had before. A lot of times, the answer is not to give up and work things out.
Does going through the extreme downs and ups that you’ve had in the last several years make you more appreciative?
Yes. I don’t know if it’s the adversity in the last few years or just getting older. Between my father, who is now 98, and my young kids and Catherine, you feel that you’ve been there and done that, but the nurturing of your family is tremendously rewarding. I also don’t mind being Mr. Mom.