The Tragic Real-Life Story Of Michael Douglas' Son

Growing up in the shadow of one Hollywood icon can't be easy, never mind trying to live up to two of them. Cameron Douglas, son of Oscar-winning actor Michael Douglas and grandson of Spartacus star Kirk Douglas, was always going to have a tough time carving out his own identity. Sadly, instead of rising to the challenge he crumbled under the pressure, spurning countless golden opportunities. 

To the dismay of his mother, Cameron's life spiraled out of control. His relationship with his famous father also became strained to a breaking point, although for much of that tension, Cameron shoulders the blame. "A lot of the anger that I felt was really towards myself, because I was failing at making him proud of me," Cameron recalled in his 2019 memoir, Long Way Home (via The New York Times). 

The pair are on much better terms nowadays, though neither of them will ever forget the hell that Cameron put the family through. This is the tragic real life story of Cameron Douglas.

Cameron Douglas was exposed to a life of 'excess' at an early age

In his memoir, Cameron Douglas pinpointed the start of his struggles as a memorable incident from when he was just seven years old. His mother informed him that his father had been having an affair, and then outed the A-lister as a drug user to boot. "Do you know what this is Cameron?" his mom asked, holding up a bag of marijuana she'd found among her husband's possessions (via the Daily Mail). "Your father is using drugs." The sad thing is, this information probably didn't come as a surprise to him. Douglas got used to being around wild Hollywood parties at a young age, hanging around the house while his father lived it up with the likes of Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito.

"Even as a really young kid, I remember running joints back and forth," Douglas recalled in Long Way Home. "Dad would say, 'Hey, bring this over to your uncle,' and I would, not realizing until years later what it had been." Weed smoking wasn't the only adult activity that Douglas witnessed on his father's property, either. In his book, he admitted that he used to "creep from house to house on the compound, climbing balconies and seeing more than I was supposed to: beautiful grown-ups doing the things that beautiful grown-ups living lives of excess do."

Cameron Douglas started using drugs at 13

According to the National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse (via Columbus Parent), kids who see their parents smoking pot are three times more likely to pick up the habit themselves. In his tell-all book, Cameron Douglas revealed that he was barely a teenager when he first started dabbling with weed. "I've been using and abusing drugs since I was thirteen," he confirmed in Long Way Home. For Douglas, marijuana was very much a gateway drug — he snorted cocaine at 15, took crystal meth at 17 and later moved on to liquid cocaine and heroin. When he sat down for his interview with Diane Sawyer in 2019, the ABC News vet asked the recovering addict if he ever came close to dying during the height of his problem. "Probably pretty close," he answered.

In his book, Douglas wrote that he was "playing a game of chicken" with his life. By 2004, Douglas was injecting himself with liquid coke "as often as three times an hour," he also revealed in his memoir. By this point, his relationship with his famous father had hit rock bottom. He could only see "concern and sadness and frustration" in his dad's eyes whenever he looked at him, and their conversations were "usually a tense interaction about money or the latest way I've disappointed him."

He was sent on a 'wilderness program' after expulsion from boarding school

Cameron Douglas was sent off to boarding school in the sixth grade, a decision that he was very much against at the time. It was here that his addiction to marijuana developed — an addiction that eventually led to him being kicked out. When school officials discovered that the celebrity scion had been stashing drugs away in his dorm room, Douglas was expelled. "The impetus for a lot of my behavior as a youngster was trying to prove that I was worthy of that last name," Douglas told Rolling Stone. "To me, that meant pushing everything just a little bit further than whoever was willing to push it furthest." He pushed his school too far, however, and his parents decided they'd had enough, too.

At a loss over how to handle him, Douglas' mom and dad sent him to a wilderness program for troubled, wayward teens. Participants were made to trek across the deserts of southern Idaho in the hope that they would come back feeling more appreciative. For Douglas, marching through the desert wasn't the hardest part — he was more concerned with keeping his identity a secret. "I used to go into those places under my middle name [Morrell] because they felt like I'd be a target if they knew my last name," he told the outlet. "Eventually everyone would find out, but I would have like two weeks of anonymity."

Cameron Douglas robbed an elderly woman for 20 bucks

After numerous failed stints in rehab and some futile family interventions, like the one which was staged by Cameron Douglas' legendary grandfather Kirk Douglas, (per Inside Edition), Michael Douglas reached the end of his rope. The actor felt as though he had done everything he could at that stage, and he just he wasn't able to "emotionally commit" to Cameron any longer. "You're my son. I love you, but I think you're going to die," the desperate Wall Street star told him. Cameron had already turned to stealing by this point (he was involved in a few petty robberies after getting booted from boarding school, per Rolling Stone), so when his dad cut him off financially, he simply returned to crime.

By his own admission, Cameron took extreme measures to feed his lifestyle. According to the Daily Mail, it was then that he started sticking up local stores, using a Glock he'd managed to get his hands on to rob cashiers at gunpoint. In Long Way Home, the recovering addict revealed that he even robbed an elderly lady who was working the check-in counter at a little hotel, taking her last 20 bucks. He told Nightline's Diane Sawyer that particular incident the "lowest point" in his life, and we'd have to agree — you can't really get much lower than that.

Michael Douglas thought his son was going to kill somebody

Cameron Douglas discussed the painful moment his father stopped supporting him during his interview with Nightline's Diane Sawyer. He recalled how his father's words were "heartbreaking" to him at the time, and how he'd asked him if he even loved him anymore. "You were going to kill somebody, or you were going to get killed," Michael said of his son while speaking to Sawyer. "We had reached a point where I thought I was gonna lose him, based on everything I'd seen." That might sound a tad dramatic, but make no mistake, it was a dark and violent world in which Cameron was operating. At one stage he joined a gang called the Sewer Rats and would regularly carry a weapon. "I usually had a buck knife or a switchblade on me," he revealed in his book (via Nightline).

Cameron was also involved in instances that Rolling Stone described as "nasty street brawls," and Michael was well aware that his son had an aggressive streak when challenged. In his despair, the Romancing the Stone star hired two men to kidnap his son and deliver him to a rehab facility, but Cameron successfully fought the pair off. "I think everything made me angry 'cause I was so angry at myself," Cameron told Sawyer (via Good Morning America). The failed abduction was another real low in his relationship with his dad. "I think we stopped talking for quite a while after that," Cameron recalled.

Cameron Douglas was jailed for dealing drugs from a New York hotel room

In 2009, Cameron Douglas' destructive behavior finally blew up in his face — he was arrested for selling drugs out of a trendy Manhattan hotel. According to the BBC, Douglas was allegedly procuring his product in California and transporting it to New York for distribution. Douglas had been using his room at the Gansevoort Hotel as a one stop shop for methamphetamine and cocaine. He had "large amounts" of both drugs, and was also in possession of heroin at the time, Reuters reported. In court, Douglas expressed remorse to his family, and admitted that he was a long-time heroin addict, describing his situation as "a nightmare of my own making."

Various members of his family wrote U.S. District Judge Richard Berman and asked for leniency, but he wasn't moved — in 2010, Douglas was sentenced to five years in prison. His mother, producer and philanthropist Diandra Luker (above left), and father were swamped by reporters as they left court, looking stunned. When he gave his first interview following his son's incarceration, however, Michael Douglas said that he actually agreed with the decision. "I think the court recognized his drug addiction as well as the crime that he committed and it's an adequate, I think, amount of time for anybody to spend in jail," the actor said on the Today show (via National Ledger). "And the best part of it is, he will be able to start his life afresh."

Cameron Douglas' prison sentence was doubled after a second drug bust

Cameron Douglas was placed under house arrest after he was busted in Manhattan, but even then he wasn't able to stop thinking about the drugs that had put him there. His girlfriend at the time ended up spending seven months behind bars for smuggling heroin into Douglas' house (she packed it inside an electric toothbrush, according to New York's Daily News). But that was just the beginning — the year after he began his prison stretch, Douglas was caught dealing drugs behind bars. Unfortunately for him, he wound up back in front of the very judge that gave him five years.

Douglas wrote to Judge Richard Berman ahead of his hearing, claiming that he was deeply ashamed of his actions and was "truly ripe for positive reform and real achievement." Berman wasn't buying it. Despite the fact that the feds had only asked for two additional years, the judge added another four-and-a-half years to Douglas' sentence, calling him "reckless, disruptive and non-compliant." His dad wasn't at the hearing, but Douglas' mother was. According to Fox News, Diandra Luker was left in such shock that Berman nearly doubled her son's prison term, she accidentally left her phone behind at the courthouse, and completely stonewalled journalists as she exited the building.

There was a bounty on Cameron Douglas in prison

When Cameron Douglas was arrested for dealing drugs from his hotel room in 2009, he was looking at a decade behind bars at the very least. His crime carried a minimum 10-year sentence, and a maximum of life. The only reason he got off with a five year sentence was because he agreed to cooperate with agents of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in identifying other drug offenders — or, in prison parlance, become a rat. When news of this reached Douglas' fellow inmates at Federal Correction Institute Loretto, it apparently made his life behind bars a living hell.

In 2012, a prison source told the New York Post that an incarcerated mob captain had put a bounty of sorts on Douglas, offering to pay $100 to anyone that hurt him while playing "flag-football." The Hollywood kid soon realized that something was up and chose to drop out of football, but he mysteriously ended up with a busted leg and finger anyway. "He broke his femur, which is hard to snap, and had to have a rod inserted," the insider said. It sounds as though it was a painful lesson, but Douglas seemingly got the message loud and clear. "He told health services staff that he hurt them playing handball. You don't break a femur playing handball."

Cameron Douglas spent two years in solitary confinement

In 2013, Cameron Douglas found himself in trouble over drugs once again. A prison source told the New York Post that the famous inmate had failed a mandatory urine test and had been immediately thrown into solitary confinement as a result. When he appeared on The View in 2019, the subject of his time in solitary came up, and co-host Sunny Hostin was shocked to learn that he had spent a total of two years in the box. "I never understood why you would put someone with an addiction in solitary confinement," Hostin said. "Was that supposed to be rehabilitative for you?"

Surprisingly, Douglas said that solitary confinement can be useful in certain situations, but it's also an easy system to abuse. "It's definitely a necessary tool if you need to protect either [the] inmate or the people around him, but there's a time limit that needs to be set on that," he said. "After said time limit I just think it becomes torture, quite honestly." Douglas also told the panel that he credits his family for helping him get through the darkest of times. "I've been blessed thoroughly with a family that has never given up on me," he said.

Don't get used to seeing Cameron Douglas' prison tats

The same source that told the New York Post about Cameron Douglas' broken leg also revealed that the celebrity scion was working hard to change his image while in prison. Douglas had "gone gangster," according to the insider, hitting the gym hard and getting plenty of ink to complete the new look. "He recently had his initials inscribed on his neck and big stars on his shoulders, with each year of his incarceration in each star," the source confirmed. "And he's currently getting a scroll on his back. They are being done by his best prison pal, Billy Trent, and he's paid over $1,000 so far for all the ink."

When Douglas was released in 2016, he seemed keen to show off his tattoos. His entire abdomen was covered, with a huge butterfly on his chest and portraits of his dad and grandfather on his sides. At the time he implied that he wanted to get even more work done, but he's since had a change of heart. Douglas has decided that he wants to revive his largely disastrous acting career (he was once fired from a movie being filmed in Ireland after he ran out of heroin and went into withdrawal), and with that in mind he's chosen to lose the tats. He's been sharing his experience of laser tattoo removal with fans via Instagram, where he's been active since becoming a free man.

Michael Douglas blamed himself for his son's problems

When Michael Douglas and his son sat down with Diane Sawyer in 2019, their interviews quickly turned into quasi-therapy sessions, with both men opening up about how Cameron's drug problems impacted them, their family, and their relationship. Michael revealed that he spent some time blaming himself for his son's downward spiral into abuse. "You rack your brain and you take it personally in the beginning," he said (via Good Morning America). "Then you look at your genetic makeup. I should've changed my priorities. My career was first. My career came before my family."

Michael went on to explain that his "marriage was not great" at the time, so he avoided it by working too much, when he ought to have been focusing on Cameron. "But that's hard to say when you're in the midst of a career, when you are in your own mind, stepping out of your father's shadow, trying to create a life for your own," he continued. The Ant-Man star would later come to appreciate that his son was climbing the same mountain, only it's twice the size. "I have some idea of the pressure of finding your own identity with a famous father," he wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Richard Berman following Cameron's arrest (via Reuters). "I'm not sure I can comprehend it with two generations to deal with."

Cameron Douglas has a family of his own now

And now for some good news. Despite the tragic events that engulfed nearly his entire life, things seem to be looking up for Cameron Douglas.

He was first pictured with New York yoga instructor Viviane Thibes (above) in 2016, not long after being released from prison. He and Thibes (originally from Sao Paulo, Brazil) fell hard for each other and things started moving fast — they welcomed their first child in December 2017. "Since Viviane has given birth to a beautiful healthy girl on Monday afternoon, I've been at their side ever since," Douglas told People. "I'm very happy." They named their little girl Lua Izzy, a subtle nod to his grandfather, who was born Issur Danielovitch and later went by Izzy before adopting the name Kirk Douglas.

When Cameron appeared on The View in 2019, he said that bringing a child into the world introduced him to "a depth of love that I didn't realize existed in me. You love your family, but when you have a child ... it's amazing — a source of inspiration like no other." He certainly looks elated with his daughter in his arms (above right), and he's also getting on great with his dad, who reportedly encouraged him to write his tell-all memoir. "My father and I have an amazing relationship," Cameron said at the Los Angeles Mission Legacy of Vision Gala (via People). "I love spending time with him, and I will spend as much time with him as I can."