What You Don't Know About Michael Douglas

In the '70s, actor Michael Douglas had his breakout role in the TV series "The Streets of San Francisco." Up to that point, he had been known primarily as the son of famous actor Kirk Douglas, but Michael showed tremendous talent in Hollywood and proved he could be more than just a celebrity kid. He went on to produce the "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," which won Best Picture at the 1976 Oscars and earned Michael an Academy Award. And as an actor, he shone as Gordon Gekko in the 1987 film "Wall Street" and the 2010 sequel "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps." His credits also include starring roles in "The War of the Roses" and "Romancing the Stone" alongside Kathleen Turner. The two reunited in Douglas' return to TV in the Netflix series "The Kominsky Method," which got Douglas Emmy nominations three years in a row, per Vanity Fair. When talking about his impressive career, Douglas told Vanity Fair that his simple philosophy both on and off screen was "you can be good, but you don't have to be a d**khead."

You may be familiar with his lengthy filmography, but how much do you know about his story? This is what you don't know about Michael Douglas.

Michael Douglas remembers his childhood

Michael Douglas is the son of Kirk Douglas, an acting legend from the golden years of Hollywood. And while Michael could see Kirk on the big screen like other moviegoers, it was more difficult to actually spend time with his dad. "My father has always been very supportive of me, but when I was younger he was doing three or four movies a year so wasn't always there," Michael remembered in an interview for GamesRadar. Though the young man found positives in the scenario, noting that his time without Kirk "gave me a strength and courage, too." But Michael didn't always have the charisma that he exuded on screen later in his career. The younger Douglas told AARP that as a kid he was "shy, introverted, cautious. I didn't have a lot of confidence." 

After his parents met, Kirk joined the Navy and Michael grew up with his mom, Diana Webster, "in New York in a one-room apartment in Greenwich Village," as he recounted to AARP. But the two ultimately split up and Michael's mom remarried when he was thirteen. As Michael explained, his stepdad Bill Darrid played a crucial role in his upbringing, with Michael calling him "the first man who listened to me and the first I gained some confidence with." While some may assume there was tension between his father and stepfather, that wasn't the case. As Michael said in AARP, "Kirk was always very grateful to Bill."

Inside Michael Douglas' college years

In 1963, Michael Douglas attended the University of California, Santa Barbara. In an interview for AARP, Douglas remembered it was the perfect time to be living in the Golden State. "I ended up getting a motorcycle and riding in my velour Renaissance shirts up to San Francisco for rock concerts," Douglas said of his college years. When it came time to finally land on a major, he figured why not follow in his father's footsteps. The young man then began to perform at school and he recalled his famous dad coming "to just about every show I did, as busy as he was." 

Chatting with Vulture in 2018, Michael Douglas remembered a production of "A Midsummer's Night Dream" where his dad's presence really psyched him out. "And as would happen, I had to come down the aisle and deliver my speech right at the row my father was at," he recalled. Nerves getting the better of him, he sputtered out his lines before he "ran back up the aisle." After the show, the elder Douglas said, "Son, you were terrible. You were absolutely terrible." Clearly, the "terrible" phase didn't last long.

After becoming an outstanding Hollywood actor, Michael joined the advisory board of his alma mater UCSB. The actor went even further by donating $1 million to the university in 2004.

Michael Douglas reveals what it was like to film Wall Street

Director Oliver Stone wanted to create a realistic movie revolving around the intense world of finance in New York. Michael Douglas explained that when auditioning for the film "Wall Street," the director picked him for having real-life knowledge of the industry. "I was a producer at the time so I guess he thought I knew something about business," Douglas explained to Vanity Fair. And while the role went on to be one the actor's iconic performances, the process of filming was far from glamorous. Douglas explained that Stone used intense methods to get the best performances from his actors. According to Douglas, since Stone fought in the Vietnam War, he liked to create an atmosphere on set like "being in the trenches." The actor continued, "So, there was a reward factor when you finished some of those scenes."

One specific moment that Douglas remembered was two weeks into filming "Wall Street." Douglas told the American Film Institute that Stone asked him, "You doing drugs? Because you look like you've never acted before in your life." The actor went to the editing room to review his footage and thought it looked fine, and Stone agreed. As Douglas explained, the director was just trying to light a fire under Douglas to make his character nastier. The mind games worked because Douglas went on to win the Best Actor award at the 1988 Academy Awards.

The full story of Michael Douglas' cancer diagnosis

In 2010, Michael Douglas revealed he was diagnosed with throat cancer. A spokesperson told People that the actor had a tumor in his throat and he would require treatment. But years later, Douglas shared that he hid the true extent of his illness. In reality, the actor, who announced he was cancer free in 2011, was actually diagnosed with stage 4 tongue cancer, as he told Samuel L. Jackson in an interview for ITV. His diagnosis came about after a doctor, who was treating what they thought to be an infection, found something else. The actor remembered, "I saw this look in his eye, and I went, 'Oh.'" 

Douglas was about to go on a worldwide tour in support of the "Wall Street" sequel, and he was advised to publicly claim he had throat cancer, not tongue cancer, so as not to lose out on potential gigs. He told Jackson that the doctor said, "If we do have to do surgery, it's not going to be pretty. You know, you lose part of your jaw and your tongue." 

His health matters made headlines again after he told The Guardian, "[W]ithout wanting to get too specific, this particular cancer is caused by HPV [human papillomavirus], which actually comes about from cunnilingus." In an effort to shut down any confusion, Douglas' rep told the Daily News, "He wants to make it very clear he never said that was the particular cause of his particular cancer."

The meet cute between Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones

In an interview with Larry King, actor Catherine Zeta-Jones reminisced about the first time she met Michael Douglas. She learned at the 1996 Deauville Film Festival in France that Douglas wanted to see her. "I was a little nervous because I didn't quite know what he wanted to meet me about," Zeta-Jones said. She then recalled crossing paths in the hotel lobby but nothing coming of it. She remembered telling her brother about Douglas, "I guess he doesn't really want to meet you that much, because he just walked right past me, and he didn't even know it was me."

The two eventually connected at the festival and Douglas was completely smitten. He admitted to Entertainment Tonight that he was so in love after first seeing her in "The Mask of Zorro" that he almost blew his chances when first meeting Zeta-Jones in person. "I probably made a big mistake, but I looked at her and said, 'I'm gonna be the father of your children,'" Douglas said. And according to the actor, Zeta-Jones responded, "I've heard a lot about you. I guess it's all true. Goodnight."

Of course, that wasn't the end of the story; they wound up getting together after all. While there has been considerable coverage about the age difference between the two actors, and while the pair did split up for several months in 2013, they've gone the distance. In 2020, the couple celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary.

A day on the links turned into a legal battle for Michael Douglas

After a golf outing in 1997, Michael Douglas was accused of severely injuring a caddie named James Parker out on the course. According to documents obtained by The Smoking Gun, Parker claimed the ball hit him in the groin with such force that it caused an "inflamed penis." And as detailed in the documents, Parker "was rushed to the hospital where he underwent an operation that ultimately resulted in the removal of one of his testicles that ruptured from the impact of the golf ball." As a result of the injury, the plaintiff filed a hefty lawsuit against Douglas and also alleged the actor used racist language following the incident. Douglas denied the charges and said his playing partner, Mark Dratch, was the one who struck the ball. The plaintiff remembered a man in a beige sweater sending the dangerous ball in his direction; photos from that day showed Douglas wore a blue sweater while Dratch had a tan sweater, The Smoking Gun reported.

Salon reported that Douglas settled the case for an undisclosed amount in 2000, "just eight days before Douglas walked down the aisle to wed Catherine Zeta-Jones."

Michael Douglas talks about his life as a father

Michael Douglas became a father after welcoming his son, Cameron Douglas, with his first wife, Diandra Luker. Though Michael remarried Catherine Zeta-Jones, he still tried to help his son become an actor. Michael produced and starred in the film "It Runs in the Family," featuring his dad Kirk Douglas and Cameron "as the stoner son who gets in trouble with the law," as Vanity Fair recapped. 

In real life, Cameron struggled with substance use and landed in prison for various drug charges, per The Mirror. In 2016, he was released, and according to Page Six, has "sought addiction treatment and stayed off drugs" ever since. Speaking to Diane Sawyer on "Nightline" about Cameron's story, Michael said, "You take it personally in the beginning, you start blaming yourself." In the same interview, Cameron said, "Going back to a life of drug addiction is repulsive to me."

Michael later had two children with Catherine Zeta-Jones, a boy and a girl. His youngest, daughter Carys Zeta Douglas, graduated in 2021 when Michael was 73 years old. Acknowledging the significant age gap, he told Kelly Clarkson that other parents mistook him for her grandfather at the graduation ceremony. "I'm not going to take it personal," he said. "I think they're just trying to be nice."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Michael Douglas had a near-death experience

Stories from Michael Douglas' personal life sound as wild as any Hollywood film. For example, the actor once found himself trapped in a frightening snowstorm in Colorado. During the blizzard, he made "a pine-bough lean-to that keeps in the heat and won't buckle from the snow," Douglas explained in an interview for Men's Journal. He detailed his method of finding the right location, collecting "a lot of pine boughs," and creating a makeshift cover on the ground all during the storm. As scary as the moment sounds, Douglas had an even worse incident in college.

While bodysurfing in California, Douglas remembered being "caught in a riptide. I fought it but kept getting pulled out and down until I was exhausted." He remembered being in an almost hallucinatory state as he was trapped under water. According to the actor, he eventually relaxed from fighting against the current, "drifted about a half-mile and finally was able to swim back in." Douglas said his experience "taught me a bit about mortality and that sometimes you have to pace yourself."

Inside Michael Douglas' sudden start in showbiz

Thanks to his famous father, Michael Douglas landed his first part in a major motion picture. As he recalled in Vanity Fair, during the production of the 1966 film "Cast a Giant Shadow," a stunt driver couldn't successfully perform a maneuver. Douglas was a production assistant on set but, as he told the outlet, his dad said, "Michael, throw a uniform on, get in there, and you can do it." It was easier said than done because, as Douglas shared, "I had total stage fright." But his driving abilities outweighed his fear and he stepped up to the plate. He explained that even after an amazing career in film, "I think dad is as proud about the fact that on the first take I whipped that Jeep up and I hit my spot just like that."

Even though he had an exhilarating first take, Douglas confessed it didn't really help early on with his confidence in front of the camera. "When I started out, I hated acting. I had a bucket off camera because I got so sick with nerves," he admitted to GamesRadar. Part of the reason for his nervousness was that the actor used to believe "the camera can tell when you're lying." But Douglas had a mental shift and realized "acting was about looking people in the eye and lying your brains out. After that I was fine and I just made sure to pick good roles."

Michael Douglas disregarded sex addiction story as a 'little lie'

In 1992, Michael Douglas went to rehab for addiction, citing alcohol abuse, per The Guardian. But some outlets speculated that he actually went for an addiction to sex. "It stuck," Douglas told Vanity Fair about the rumor. He claimed the idea started from "an unscrupulous British journalist who just wanted to jazz up his story." Even though Douglas denied the accusation and successfully completed his stint in rehab, it was hard on his personal life. He was already having difficulties with his wife Diandra Luker, who, as the outlet noted, "accused him of incessant adultery and being a bad father to their son, Cameron." The couple then split when Douglas returned home from rehab.

"Sex is just a wave that sweeps over me, an impulse that is overpowering. I'm helpless. Every time," Douglas reportedly once shared, according to Marc Eliot's biography. The actor's "supposed sex addiction landed all over the tabloids," Eliot writes, but as Douglas later said, "Where did that sex-addiction stuff come from? ... [That] little lie got a lot of press, affected how people looked at me."

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

A fall on the slopes took a toll on Michael Douglas' knee

When he was younger, Michael Douglas had a frightening ski accident. And as a result, the actor severely injured his leg. He explained to Men's Journal that he "severed the meniscus, the patella, and the anterior cruciate in my left knee." Rather than hang up the poles and boots for good, Michael kept hitting the slopes, wearing "a big old brace." That said, he told Men's Journal that after a while, his old injury started to impact his walk. So, he went under the knife.

In an interview for Express, Michael shared that after he had his knee replaced at the age of 64, his dad made fun of him while recovering. As the "Wall Street" actor told the outlet, Kirk Douglas said, "You know, when I had my double knee replacement, I was 88!" But he said his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, was helpful during his months of healing. Hey, it's good to have someone there for you in your time of knee-d.

Michael Douglas' one-of-a-kind relationship with his legendary dad

Michael Douglas first grew up in the shadow of the famous actor Kirk Douglas before becoming famous himself. But along the way, Michael said his dad was supportive and loved to give him life lessons. One of the best pieces of advice that Kirk gave him was "to make the best effort I can and then — f*** it," Michael told Men's Journal. After Kirk survived a helicopter crash and a stroke, he continued to stick to that advice. As Michael told GamesRadar, "He's always been funny but his humor and openness have so dramatically increased. He's hilarious to be around."

When Kirk turned 100, Michael threw him a big birthday party. On "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" Michael explained how his centenarian father didn't really want to celebrate the milestone age. The same thing happened when Kirk turned 101. But Michael kept throwing parties to celebrate his father's longevity. Ahead of turning 103, Michael said his father begged him with tears in his eyes, "Let's just have dinner together, the family, please I can't do this."

In February 2020, Michael announced on Facebook that his father died at 103 years old. He wrote on the post, "Let me end with the words I told him on his last birthday and which will always remain true. Dad- I love you so much and I am so proud to be your son."

The story of Michael Douglas' stalker

Things took a turn for the scary when a woman named Dawnette Knight became "infatuated" with Michael Douglas and targeted Catherine Zeta-Jones, per ABC News. According to the BBC, Knight was arrested in June 2004 and denied bail. She was charged with stalking and multiple counts of criminal threats, partially due to the series of gruesome letters she sent to Zeta-Jones. Ultimately, she entered a plea deal and a Los Angeles court sentenced Knight to three years in prison and ordered her to pay $200 to Douglas' wife.

Per Entertainment Weekly, Knight wrote Zeta-Jones an apology, stating she was a "confused young woman infatuated with Michael Douglas" who "would never harm anyone."

According to the BBC, during the proceedings, Zeta-Jones called Knight "evil" and told her, "You have profoundly affected me in how I conduct my life ...  Your actions will be with me the rest of my life — how I will be constantly observing, looking over my shoulder." According to Digital Spy, Knight was released in 2006.

Michael Douglas is a charitable man

Throughout his career, Michael Douglas has been just as influential in humanitarian missions as his acting. He was made a Messenger of Peace for the United Nations, for starters. At the time of writing, Douglas is one of only four actors with this title, alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, Charlize Theron, and Edward Norton. He also was on the Ploughshares Fund Board of Directors and launched a charity golf event called the Michael Douglas & Friends Celebrity Golf Tournament (per Look to the Stars). 

In an interview for Town & Country Magazine, Michael said he uses the "the sprinkle approach" when it comes to philanthropy to try to cover as much ground as he can. "Early on I was a little overwhelmed by requests," he said, noting that "sprinkling" the wealth around to different causes "takes a lot of the pressure off." Hey, sounds like a win-win.

Acting and charity seem to run in the family. After Kirk Douglas died in 2020, The Mirror reported he left a whopping majority of his money to the Douglas Foundation. 

How much is Michael Douglas worth?

Michael Douglas could have probably lived a comfortable life just based on his dad's success in Hollywood, but he became a successful actor and producer in his own right. "I think in that area, my reputation is pretty clear. I feel like a better citizen for it," Douglas told Vanity Fair about his production work. And Douglas continued his success as an actor even as he grew older, winning his first Emmy award in 2013 for portraying Liberace in the film "Behind the Candelabra." All of his successes in the entertainment industry combined for a massive bank account. As of 2021, Douglas was worth an estimated $350 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth.

With some of his earnings, Douglas picked up several pieces of real estate. As Architectural Digest reported, he and wife Catherine Zeta-Jones owned an impressive apartment in Central Park West and listed the property for $21.5 million in 2021. Oh, but that's not all. Per the outlet, they've got spots in New York's ritzy Westchester County, Swansea, and Mallorca. However, for years, Douglas awkwardly split the villa in Mallorca with his ex-wife Diandra Luker until he finally purchased her share in 2020. 

Money never sleeps, pal.