Michael Douglas is one of the few actors who actually appears to be a walking paradox. A household name, an estimated worth of over $200 million, a father who was one of the world's biggest film stars in the 50s and 60s, and a wife whose father is younger than him, Douglas has indeed gained fame and acclaim, but as many critics have put it, Kirk Douglas and Diana Douglas. His parents divorced when he was six, and he went to live with his mother and her new husband.
Only seeing Kirk on holidays, Michael attended Eaglebrook school in Deerfield, Massachusetts, where he was about a year younger than all of his classmates. Deciding he wanted to be an actor in his teenage years, Michael often asked his father about getting a 'foot in the door'. Kirk was strongly opposed to Michael pursuing an acting career, claiming that it was an industry with many downs and few ups, such a depressing industry that he wanted all four of his sons to stay out of it. But Michael was persistent. When he first started his career in the early 1970s people were all too ready to tag him as 'the next Kirk Douglas'. But Michael defied all those critics by accepting wimpy, hippy, quiet roles, a far cry from the leading man, all-American hero roles that his father was most famous for. It didn't earn Michael much credibility, but it earned him his own identity.
His first real break came on the TV show "The Streets of San Francisco" (1972) starring opposite screen veteran Karl Malden. Michael gained quite a following on this show until he quit it to produce One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975). His own life was never brilliant either. He had dreams of acting alongside brother Joel Douglas, the one he was closest to out of his 3 siblings. Growing up with Joel, and only seeing Peter Douglas and the late Eric Douglas when he visited his father, Michael was obviously closer to Joel, yet the latter wanted no part of the acting his family was famous for. Michael married the young Diandra Luker (b. 1958) in 1977, and fathered one son with her, Cameron. The marriage failed, as Diandra claimed that she was sick of his womanizing, absenteeism, and not being 'a proper father to Cameron'.
In the 80s Michael tried his hand at comedies, the most successful being Romancing the Stone (1984), its sequel The Jewel of the Nile (1985), and The War of the Roses (1989) in which he co-starred with Danny DeVito and Kathleen Turner. It was in the 90s though, that Douglas became his most notorious. He starred in Basic Instinct (1992), a thriller, heavy on the sex and violence, a worldwide hit. Having played a similar role in Fatal Attraction (1987), it did indeed appear that Douglas was being typecast in the 'Man against Woman' type roles. He did nothing to sway this image, starring in Disclosure (1994). Michael tried to break away from this image with the movies The American President (1995) and The Ghost and the Darkness (1996), yet when he started dating Catherine Zeta-Jones, 25 years his junior, this image continued, even after their marriage.
After two children with her, Michael is trying to settle down to become a more 'family-oriented' actor. The comedy Wonder Boys (2000) and Douglas-clan movie It Runs in the Family (2003) were only minor hits, and it appears Michael is again looking for a career change. Trying his hand now at light-hearted comedies, like a re-make The In-Laws (2003/I), he hopes to break away from the reputation he has acquired in the past.