Michael Douglas' life in pictures
Michael Douglas has been working in Hollywood since the ’60s. With acting in his blood, over the last six decades, he’s dominated the silver and small screens as well as the stage. In honor of his most recent project, Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method,” debuting its third and final season on May 28, 2021, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at Michael’s life in photos…
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Michael Douglas was born to Hollywood royalty. His parents, actors Kirk Douglas and Diana Douglas, welcomed him on Sept. 25, 1944, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He was their first child. Because his parents were in the business, he grew up on film sets: He’s seen here tagging along while dad Kirk filmed “Big Sky” in 1952.
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A little brother for Michael Douglas! Kirk Douglas and Diana Douglas welcomed Michael’s younger brother (and only full sibling), Joel Douglas, in 1947. Dad and sons are seen here circa 1955.
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When it came time for his education, Michael Douglas (seen here in 1956 with dad Kirk Douglas and little brother Joel Douglas) went to some elite institutions. He started out at the Allen-Stevenson school, a private boys’ elementary school in New York City, before attending boarding schools Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, Massachusetts, and Choate Preparatory School in Wallingford, Connecticut.
Michael Douglas’ parents divorced in 1951. Kirk Douglas went on to marry Anne Buydens, with whom he welcomed two more children, Peter Douglas (born in 1955, bottom right) and Eric Douglas (born in 1958, bottom left), giving Michael (top) two more brothers.
After finishing high school, Michael Douglas went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in drama from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1968 (he’s seen here the following year). He then furthered his acting education, opting to study at the American Place Theatre in New York City.
After studying acting extensively, Michael Douglas’ first movie role came in 1969 in the small film “Hail, Hero!” His performance was so impressive that it earned him a Golden Globe nomination in the now-defunct most promising male newcomer category.
Michael Douglas followed up “Hail, Hero!” with “Adam at 6 A.M.” in 1970, helping cement his reputation as an up-and-coming Hollywood heartthrob.
Michael Douglas found love in 1971 with actress Brenda Vaccaro, who was also starting to enjoy big success on the stage and screen at the time. Brenda later reminisced to Closer Weekly about the way she and Michael met, sharing, “I did ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ he fell in love with me and asked his dad, Kirk Douglas, to introduce us.” Of their nearly seven-year courtship, she noted, “He was a great guy and I loved him, but I did not want to marry him.”
It wasn’t just the big screen that Michael Douglas was dominating early in his career. He also impressed audiences on the stage. In 1971, he won the prestigious World Theatre Award (alongside another member of a Hollywood family, Julie Garfield — the daughter of John Garfield) for his performance in “Pinkville” at the American Place Theatre.
Michael Douglas seamlessly transitioned from film to stage to the small screen in 1972. He starred alongside Karl Malden on the ABC series “The Streets of San Francisco” — a show about two police officers investigating homicides in the California city — from 1972 to 1976. The performance earned Michael three Primetime Emmy nominations for best supporting actor in a drama series.
If it wasn’t enough to be dominating the acting world, Michael Douglas set his sights on producing in 1975 when he worked as a producer on “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The film was a huge hit that won best picture at the 1976 Academy Awards, where Michael got to take home an Oscar for his involvement behind the scenes.
Very shortly after splitting from Brenda Vaccaro, Michael Douglas moved on with Diandra Luker. The two met at President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration, as Diandra was the daughter of a diplomat. They wed in 1977 in Los Angeles when Diandra was just 19 and Michael was 32. They welcomed son Cameron Douglas the following year.
Michael Douglas put both his talents to work with 1979’s “The China Syndrome.” He produced and starred in the film alongside Hollywood heavyweights Jack Lemmon and Jane Fonda. The disaster thriller was both a critical and commercial hit — it earned more than $51 million and nabbed four Academy Award nominations.
1984 saw one of Michael Douglas’s biggest hits yet. He starred alongside Kathleen Turner in “Romancing the Stone,” which earned $86 million at the box office. The flick — which won a Golden Globe Award for best musical or comedy — is largely considered to be a turning point in Michael’s career, proving that he could be a sexy leading man. He followed it up with a sequel, “Jewel of the Nile,” the following year.
It’s safe to say the ’80s were one of the best decades for Michael Douglas. He followed up box office smashes “Romancing the Stone” and its sequel with another hit — “Fatal Attraction.” This 1987 thriller co-starred Glenn Close, who played a woman with whom Michael’s character, a married man, has an affair. She then becomes terrifyingly obsessed with him. It became the highest grossing film worldwide that year and went on to serve as a reference in the pop culture zeitgeist thanks to Michael and Glenn’s outstanding performances.
The same year he starred in the hit “Fatal Attraction,” Michael Douglas led another incredibly successful film: “Wall Street.” This 1987 drama saw Michael playing a ruthless stockbroker opposite Charlie Sheen. Critics raved about his inspired performance.
Another Oscar! This time, Michael Douglas earned his Academy Award for his acting prowess. He took home the coveted statue for best actor at the 1988 ceremony for his work in “Wall Street.” He also won the Golden Globe for best actor that year.
Michael Douglas took a short break in the early ’90s before returning in 1992 with two flicks that were very different. The first, “Shining Through” — a World War II drama alongside Melanie Griffith — was a flop. But his second film that year, “Basic Instinct” with Sharon Stone, was a massive hit and one of the highest grossing films of the decade.
Despite things going wonderfully in his career, at home, Michael Douglas’ life was unraveling. Though it was well-hidden, he had a tumultuous relationship with his wife, Diandra Douglas, and was facing drug and alcohol addictions that would result in him checking into rehab in 1992. He’s seen here with his wife and son, Cameron, the year before he entered treatment.
Michael Douglas was quickly back to work after a 30-day rehab stint. He returned to the big screen in 1993 with “Falling Down” and followed that up with the 1994 hit thriller “Disclosure” with Demi Moore. The film was based on the popular Michael Crichton novel that tells the tale of sexual harassment between a female boss (Demi) and her employee (Michael).
It’s over. Rumors of strife had plagued Michael Douglas and Diandra Douglas for a few years, which were filled with a more than one separation. Diandra finally filed a divorce petition in 1995, citing irreconcilable differences and asking for joint custody of son Cameron, then 15. Michael’s affairs were largely to blame. Diandra ended up getting a $45 million settlement — half of his net worth — making it one of the most expensive celebrity divorces in history at the time.
After Michael Douglas found so much fame himself, it was easy to forget his father had been even more famous in his day. Michael was there when dad Kirk Douglas received an honorary Oscar in 1996 for his work in Hollywood, after which they posed together back at home.
Michael Douglas met his future second wife, Welsh actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, in 1996 at the Deauville Film Festival in France. There was a 25-year age difference between the pair — who were both coincidentally born on Sept. 25 — and they started out as friends before eventually becoming a couple. They’re seen here early in their relationship in 1997.
Michael Douglas endured struggles with addiction, which unfortunately also plagued his son, Cameron Douglas. In 1999 — two years after this photo was taken — the 20-year-old was arrested in New York City and charged with buying drugs. This would be the first run-in of many between Cameron and the cops, setting off a string of drug issues that eventually led to a methamphetamine-dealing charge.
Michael Douglas proposed to Catherine Zeta-Jones on New Year’s Eve in 1999 (they’re seen here the same year). He gave her a 10-carat diamond ring from Fred Leighton that was estimated to have cost $1 million. There were also rumors that Catherine was pregnant at the time, which proved to be true. They welcomed their first child together, son Dylan Michael, in August 2000.
In 2000, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones joined forces for the film “Traffic” alongside other big stars including Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Quaid and Don Cheadle. The movie wasn’t just a hit at the box office but a critical darling. It won four Academy Awards. That same year, Michael also starred in “Wonder Boys,” which earned him another Golden Globe nomination for best actor. It was a big year for Michael personally too, as he wed Catherine Zeta-Jones that November.
2003 was all about family for Michael Douglas. He joined son Cameron Douglas and parents Kirk Douglas and Diana Douglas (though divorced in real life, they played a married couple on screen) in the film “It Runs In the Family.” The movie centered around the lives of three generations, just like the real-life cast. Though it wasn’t a commercial hit, it was a fun look at the Douglas family.
Baby on board! Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones — seen here at the 2003 Screen Actors Guild Awards — welcomed daughter Carys Zeta in April that year.
Shifting gears! In 2006, Michael Douglas returned to the big screen after a three-year break in the comedy “Me, You and Dupree.” The funny flick saw Michael playing the father of Kate Hudson’s character.
In 2006, Michael Douglas was given an honorary degree from St. Andrew’s University in Scotland, which recognized his contributions to film. It helped launch the school’s Department of Film Studies. Wife Catherine Zeta-Jones was proud to be with him for the ceremony.
Michael Douglas’ firstborn son, Cameron Douglas, continued to struggle with drugs throughout the ’00s. In 2005 — a year before this photo was taken — he reportedly started using heroin regularly, as well as cocaine. In 2009, he was arrested in New York City after officers found half a pound of meth on him, resulting in a punishment of house arrest. Michael and second wife Catherine Zeta-Jones told a judge there was no room for him in their home, so he was sent to his mother’s townhouse (while she was away in Spain), where he continued to do drugs. The troubled young man eventually landed himself a five-year prison term in 2010.
Michael Douglas reprised his role as Gordon Gekko in “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps,” the 2010 sequel to his ’80s hit. This time, he co-starred with Carey Mulligan, who played his on-screen daughter, and Shia LaBeouf. The film did well at the box office but received mixed reviews from critics.
In 2010, Michael Douglas, seen here in 2011 with his youngest child, daughter Carys, announced he had been diagnosed with stage 4 throat cancer. It was later discovered to be tongue cancer, most commonly referred to as oral cancer. He eventually went into remission after undergoing chemotherapy.
In the summer of 2013, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones announced their separation. Reports claimed that they’d struggled following Michael’s cancer diagnosis and Catherine’s battle with bipolar II disorder, which she announced in 2011 (she sought treatment twice between 2011 and 2013). The two mentioned nothing about divorce as they decided to spend time apart in the wake of their troubles.
Michael Douglas and Matt Damon teamed up for the HBO original movie “Behind The Candelabra” in May 2013. Michael, who took on the lead role of Liberace in the biopic, won a Primetime Emmy and a Golden Globe for his portrayal of the music icon.
By November 2013, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones were back together. The two are seen here walking a red carpet together in early 2014.
In 2015, Michael Douglas had a role in the hit action flick “Ant-Man” with Paul Rudd. When it came time for the London premiere, he brought along wife Catherine Zeta-Jones and their children, Dylan and Carys.
In 2015, the Douglas family lost an important member: Diana Douglas, Michael Douglas’ mother. She passed away at 92 after a cancer battle. Michael is seen here with his mom in 2009.
Michael Douglas brought son Cameron Douglas to the premiere of “Ant-Man and The Wasp” in 2018. Cameron was released from prison in 2016 and has since turned his life around. He even made Michael a grandfather in December 2017 when he welcomed his first child — daughter Lua Izzy — with girlfriend Viviane Thibes.
Michael Douglas’s daughter, Carys Zeta Douglas, has her heart set on entering the family business. But despite having famous relatives, Carys told Town & Country in 2018 — she and her parents are seen here at one of the magazine’s parties the same year — that she had no idea what her dad’s job truly was for a long time. “I thought my dad was a pancake maker. I didn’t know he was an actor,” she explained.
It’s about time! Michael Douglas and son Cameron Douglas flanked 101-year-old family patriarch Kirk Douglas as they celebrated during Michael’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star ceremony on Nov. 6, 2018. The patriarch of the family passed away a little over a year later in February 2020.
For Halloween 2019, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones transformed into iconic movie characters for Bette Midler’s Hulaween Charity Gala. Catherine got all dolled up as Jean Harlow’s character in “Dinner at Eight” while Michael picked Peter O’Toole’s character in “Lawrence of Arabia.”
Michael Douglas made the jump to Netflix, starring in the streaming service’s “The Kominsky Method,” beginning in November 2018. He plays former successful actor Sandy Kominsky, who’s now working as an acting coach, on the dramedy series.
“The Kominsky Method” was a smash hit with critics. At the 2019 Golden Globe Awards, the show was named best musical or comedy TV series and its star, Michael Douglas, earned a best actor in a musical or comedy TV series trophy.
Michael Douglas picked up another nomination for his work on “The Kominsky Method” at the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards. He attended the ceremony with wife Catherine Zeta-Jones that September.
During the 2020 awards season, “The Kominsky Method” continued to round up nominations. Michael Douglas is seen here at the Screen Actors Guild Awards with wife Catherine Zeta-Jones that January.
Getting political! In February 2020, Michael Douglas started campaigning for Democratic presidential candidate and former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg. He’s seen here at aa campaign event in Quincy, Massachusetts.
Though things looked a little different due to the coronavirus pandemic, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones were still on hand for the 2021 Golden Globe Awards, which were rescheduled for February. The couple presented the best motion picture drama prize from the Rainbow Room in New York City, one of two locations that hosted the Globes that night.
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