Was Catherine Zeta-Jones Close With Her Late Father-In-Law Kirk Douglas?

When Catherine Zeta-Jones tied the knot with Michael Douglas in November 2000, it was the Brit who married into royalty. The daughter of a seamstress and a small factory owner, Zeta-Jones' background is opposite from Michael's, who is the son of Classic Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas and Diana Dill. Despite the difference in upbringing, Michael feels right at home with his in-laws. Zeta-Jones' parents, David and Patricia Jones, were initially taken aback by her choice of partner.

"I wasn't quite the son-in-law her parents had envisioned!" Michael, who is the same age as the in-laws, told The Guardian in 2010. But they quickly came around. "I do like to wind up Catherine's father and call him Pops," he laughed. When Michael and Zeta-Jones' children, Dylan and Carys, were growing up, they visited David and Patricia in Wales every summer. The visits gave the kids an opportunity to experience life outside the glitz and glam of Hollywood and a chance for Michael and Zeta-Jones to enjoy some alone time.

"The grandparents have a very nice house up there, but they do normal stuff in Mumbles and it gives us a chance to do something romantic," he said. Michael isn't alone in having a good relationship with the in-laws. When Michael and Zeta-Jones went on a break in 2013, his mother showed she was close to the couple. "I knew they would work it out," she told the New York Daily Post when they reconciled the following year. And Kirk was no different.

Catherine Zeta-Jones and Kirk Douglas admired each other

Catherine Zeta-Jones had a special place in her heart for Kirk Douglas. She even had an affectionate pet name for him. "This guy on my knee, is 103!!!!! Happy Birthday Pappy!!! I love you with all my heart," she wrote in a December 2019 Instagram post. Beyond the personal realm, Zeta-Jones also admired Douglas for the changes he promoted in Hollywood. In January 2018, the "Mask of Zorro" actor was able to show her pride publicly.

When she presented a Golden Globe award alongside Douglas, Zeta-Jones highlighted his role in putting an end to the Hollywood Blacklist in 1960. "He not only hired blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo to write the epic 'Spartacus,' but he also had Trumbo receive his proper screen credit for his work," she said. Douglas, in turn, showed the respect he had for Zeta-Jones. "I want to say a speech, but I don't want to say it because I could never follow you," he said.

When Kirk died in February 2020, his daughter-in-law put her affection for him on display. "To my darling Kirk, I shall love you for the rest of my life. I miss you already. Sleep tight," she captioned an Instagram post featuring a black-and-white photo of them together. Zeta-Jones has continued to show her appreciation for Kirk, even after his death. "Missing you every day. Happy birthday Pappy," she wrote in a December 2020 Instagram post to honor what would have been his 104th birthday. 

Michael and Kirk Douglas had ups and downs

Michael Douglas was a big fan of Kirk Douglas. But, being in the same industry, tensions were bound to happen. And for Michael and Kirk, they happened early. In the '70s, Michael persuaded his father to give him the rights to "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," which the elder Douglas had acquired the previous decade and turned into a play with himself in the lead role. When he agreed to pass it on to Michael, Kirk understood he'd play Randle Patrick "Mac" McMurphy. 

As we all know, that didn't happen. For the 1975 film, not only did Michael win his first Oscar, but Jack Nicholson also won the first of his three statuettes for portraying McMurphy. "In his version, 'Yeah, sure, Michael gets the project, takes a year, sets it all up and doesn't cast me in the part!' If he were here right now, that'd be the first thing he'd want to tell you," Michael said at the TCM Classic Film Festival in 2017. Michael, however, argued director Miloš Forman believed the role called for someone younger.

Kirk didn't exactly forget the situation, but he put it behind him. In 1988, Michael told People he always knew he could count on his father, even in the early years when Kirk dealt with his fame and the aftermath of his divorce from Diana Dill. "We always knew he was there," Michael said, referring to his brother Joel. "And that he really cared."