Michael Douglas has been acting since the ’60s. But at an event in New York on Monday honoring his lauded career, friends and family spoke of his more personal accomplishments away from the camera.
“The role that I’m so proud of, and there have been many … is the role of father,” an emotional Catherine Zeta-Jones told an audience in New York gathered to see her husband accept the 2010 Chaplin Award from the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
“He has shown our children a love, a commitment, to the three of them … Cameron, Dylan and Carys,” said Zeta-Jones, 40. “And he has love for them that is extraordinary.”
Privately, Douglas, 65, told PEOPLE that the family is doing well after a difficult time that saw Cameron, 31, sentenced to five years in prison on drug charges. “God bless my son,” he said. “I think he’s in a safe place. He’ll be there for a while. And [he’ll] start a new life.”
Douglas’s father Kirk, 93, presented his son with the award in front of friends and colleagues including Danny DeVito, Tobey Maguire, Erika Christensen, Barbara Walters (on tape, as she recuperates from heart-valve surgery), Brian Williams and Brooke Shields.
“I think it’s great that he’s being honored for his work, but he’s a really amazing man,” Shields told PEOPLE. “As a dad and as a husband, that’s the part that makes you fall in love with him.”
As the celebration evolved into a roast, DeVito told a story of how Douglas, on location in Mexico for Jewel of the Nile, once held a snake and danced – and got bit on the forearm. Had he been hit below the belt, “you’d be a dead man now!” DeVito wisecracked.
Douglas later returned the favor, saying he was impressed to see DeVito “standing … after 12 limoncellos.”