Michael Douglas – One actor who never dodged a question

December 1993 By Philip Berk

Long before Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct, Michael Douglas  was confronting gender wars. 

When I interviewed him for War of the Roses, he told me, “The institution of marriage is wonderful when it works. But too many people were sold a bill of goods about its dreamlike qualities. I totally support the women’s movement, but I think women created a monster. I’ve seen working women spread themselves so thin, and when they’re not happy they blame their husbands.”

At his press conference for Disclosure, Michael was even more confrontational. “I’m a very strong advocate of male rights.” he told me. “I don’t consider myself militant, but I’d like to see a little more compassion and understanding. I’d like to find ways for men and women to interrelate better. As we begin the new millennium, let’s hope we become more compassionate with each other.”

Last week at the Ghost and the Darkness junket,  Michael is still having  problems with the opposite sex.

This time, it’s actress Jodie Foster, who once posed the question, “How many movies does Michael Douglas get to make that earn no money before he gets less money?” 

At the time, Michael chose to ignore what was then a totally unprovoked and rather meanspirited remark, but now he’s embroiled in a $14 million lawsuit with her and he’s had to fight back.

What happened? I asked him.

“Jodie has a production deal with Polygram, the company that’s making my next film, The Game. They produced her last, Nell. She had access to the script even before I came in.

“The Game, is about a wealthy, recently divorced San Franciscan, played by me, whose bored with life until his younger brother, played by Sean Penn, gives him  a birthday present — an introduction to a company that will make his life “interesting.” 

“When Jodie read the script, she wanted to play the younger brother. 

“I had no idea of this when they offered me the script. After I made the deal, the director told me of her interest, and I said, ‘Well, that would be interesting. She could play the younger brother,’ and they said, ‘No, she wants to play your daughter,’ and I said, ‘I don’t think so.’

“In fact, I said No. I took a look in the mirror, and I said, ‘I don’t know what you think? I’d love her to play my younger sister, my kid sister — I’ve got a brother Eric who’s Jodie’s age.’ I said, ‘Fine, great.’  And they said, ‘She could  be your daughter. You could have been 17 when you had her,’  and I said No.  

“Then it kind of got, I guess, stubborn. ‘I only want to do it’. ‘I won’t do it…’

“It’s not a very big part, whereas I’m in every scene in the movie. So I went away. Sean Penn is now playing the role, and I’m really excited working with him.

“It was nothing personal. I think Jodie’s a wonderful actress, I just don’t know what the deal is because it wasn’t written for a woman or a girl. It was written for a younger brother. I was the one who said, ‘Fine let’s try the younger sister,’ but for a lot of reasons it didn’t work as a daughter because it puts a different spin on the part. When it’s your daughter you haven’t seen for five years as opposed to your brother…

“Anyway, I think it’s gotten resolved.”

Not quite. According to the trades, the lawsuit is still in litigation.

So is his year-long separation from his wife Diandra.

Five years ago when Michael spoke about his marriage, he admitted, “My wife and I were very young when we first got married. I probably fooled her the first three or four years. I was working hard, a workaholic. Fortunately, she was extraordinary in her patience and support, but I realised it’s not a business deal. You have good times, and you have bad times. The differences between us, which attracted us in the first place, proved to be  a benefit.”

But ultimately the marriage soured. Six years ago he promised “to devote a lot more time to it,” but It didn’t help. 

Last year she filed for divorce, although they still remain friends.

She and their 18 year old son Cameron visited Michael in South Africa last December when he was making The Ghost and the Darkness there.

They still own a summer home in Spain where she grew up and where she has always gone  to escape the glare of Hollywood.

Kevin Cosner recently talked about the terror of dating in the 90’s. Has he experienced the same difficulties?

“I haven’t really. I’m still separated. Diandra and I have been separated since last June, so I have not been actively involved in dating. If things progress the way Diandra and I talk, we probably will, but I haven’t begun, so I’m terrified to see what it will be like.”

Did he offer his Ghost and the Darkness co-star Val Kilmer any advice on how to handle separation and divorce? (Kilmer and Joanne Whalley filed for divorce July of ‘95.)

“You have to be very careful about giving advice.” he replied. “Unless advice is asked for, I choose not to give it. There’s an expression, Advice that’s unsolicited can be seen as hostile action. I think that’s sometimes true so you should be very careful.” 

Is he happy with the way his career is going?

“I’m really happy with the films I’ve done. The big difference I think between me and other actors is I always go with the movie. What interests me is the film. Sometimes I have a good part in the film I choose; sometimes, somebody else has a better part. I go with the movie. I try to encourage more actors to think that way. Too many of them only think about their part in a film.”

But still he prefers playing leading men?

“I don’t know how many sexually active roles I’ll be doing in the future, but I’m feeling good. I think it’s a productive time. My son is moving on to college. I’ll have more free time. Diandra and I are resolving our issues and our relationship. We get along very well. A lot of love there. Nineteen years of marriage.

“I think I’m going to have much more free time. People always talk about how much I worked,  but the truth is, this is only my 23rd movie — isn’t  a whole lot. My dad did eighty movies and there’s a lot of actors ten years younger than me who’ve done more movies. So hopefully I’ll get a chance. I feel very blessed and fortunate. I love what I’m doing. I love acting.”

Would he direct?

“I don’t know if I have the patience to spend eighteen months directing a film or working on the whole project. When you think about it, it wasnt until Fatal Attraction  that I’ve been in a position to have the kind of roles I’m getting now, and that was just ten years ago. 

“I want to take advantage of this time. Maybe someday I’ll direct, but at the moment I feel fulfulled as an actor and producer.”

His company produced The Ghost and the Darkness.

The film provokes theories about spiritual reincarnation. Does he subscribe to that belief?

“I do  believe there is some form of spiritual reincarnation. It seems highly probable to me that there exists an energy that can recreate itself. At one point in my life I followed certain Indian philosophers. I was a student of the Maharishi Masi Yoha many years ago. I like to believe that something like that exists, but  spirituality for me has always been a non specific form of religion.

What  religion does he follow? 

“I had no fomal religious unbringing. I was always non-denominational. My mother is Episcopalian, my father (actor Kirk Douglas) Jewish. They were never formal practitioners. I got into some religious training in the sixties in college, but I never affiliated with any religion. 

“I have enjoyed watching my father these last few years pursue the Torah and the Old Testament and his roots and studying. It’s great to watch the joy and satisfaction it has given him. My son I guess is also a non-denominational, but he’s had no fomal religious training either.”

In l992 when he checked into a rehab clinic, the British tabloids claimed he was there for a sex-addiction problem. 

“Unfortunately this is a business that is full of gossip and innuendos.”

Any truth to that rumor?  

“Booze, maybe some other stuff, but never sex. I entered Arizona’s Sierra Tucson clinic to deal with the effects of a cumulative lifestyle in order to save my marriage. I ended up saving myself.”

How so?

“It taught me about moderation. I think that period of my life was an accumulation of really hard work, hard living for a long period of time. The therapy gave me an opportuantiy to re-evaluate some check points on how to live a more productive life.”

7 thoughts on “Michael Douglas – One actor who never dodged a question”

Comments are closed.