Michael Douglas has spent long swathes of his career being unjustly undervalued. One of the great survivors – he even told an aggressive cancer tumour to get stuffed – Douglas has repeatedly proved that writing him off is an idiot’s folly. For the first few years of his career, he struggled to overcome the enormous pressure of being ‘Kirk’s kid’ and living up to his father’s extraordinary legend. Many at the time though that The Streets of San Francisco would lead him nowhere but a cul-de-sac.
An Oscar at 31 (for producing One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest) and creditable performances in films like Coma and The China Syndrome proved that he was a lot more than a pretty face and a hereditarily inherited dimpled chin. The 1980s saw him become a megastar, with blockbuster following blockbuster for over a decade and in Basic Instinct, he nearly, nearly
In recent years, after a fallow period career-wise loaded with second-rate thrillers like Don’t Say A Word and The Sentinel, he became something of a media joke on account of his bedding and wedding of the much younger Catherine Zeta-Jones (though 14 years of marriage and two kids has put the cynics in their place). He had to watch helplessly as his son was sent to jail. Then, throat cancer nearly robbed cinema of one of its great voices, literally: at his most menacing, Douglas sounds like someone slowly sharpening a sword over an anvil made of razor blades. As you’ll see below, Douglas always gives good quote.
When the going got tough though, the tough got going, and he rocketed back onto centre stage with his multi-award winning performance as Liberace in Steven Soderbergh’s Behind The Candelebra in 2013. He has now been given the modern day Hollywood equivalent of the key to the executive washroom: a prominent role in a Marvel Studios movie, playing the original Ant-Man, Dr Hank Pym.
Douglas’s resumé is littered with brave, intelligent, controversial choices and it reveals a vastly underappreciated actor who has never let vanity or cowardice stop him from portraying truthfully the tortured, occasionally sordid complications at the heart of the American baby-boomer generation. Here then are six reasons to tip your hat to Kirk’s kid.
Romancing The Stone (1984)
“Cartegena?! Angel, you are Hell and gone from Cartegena.”
Quite a few action adventures magically appeared after the successful debut of Indiana Jones but the only one that could hold a candle up against Raiders of The Lost Ark was this immensely entertaining romp from future Spielberg collaborator Robert Zemeckis. Binding it all together was the white-hot chemistry between naïve romantic novelist Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) and her rough-and-ready jungle guide (Michael Douglas).
Unlike Indiana Jones, Jack T Colton was a very contemporary action man: a Doobie Brothers fan, not at all averse to getting high from a bag full of smouldering marijuana – “Now that’s what I call a campfire.” Though genre confinements make it all but certain that he will eventually live up to his self-given middle name (“Trustworty”), Douglas’s snake-like shiftiness makes Colton an ambiguous anti-hero right up to his final heroic appearance in home-made crocodile-skin boots. It should be noted that Douglas also got the chance here (and repeated in Basic Instinct), to prove what a memorably terrible dancer he is. Michael Douglas the A-list movie star though, had officially arrived.