“Once you get that first kiss in, you are comfortable,” Douglas, who stars as pianist Liberace in HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, tells New York magazine in its latest cover story (on newsstands May 13).
“Matt and I didn’t rehearse the love scenes. We said, ‘Well – we’ve read the script, haven’t we?’ ”
While locking lips with Damon was no big deal for Douglas, he says the film – which premieres May 26 – still came with challenges.
“The hardest thing … is that everybody is a judge,” Douglas, 68, says. “I don’t know the last time you murdered somebody or blew anyone’s brains out, but everyone has had sex and probably this morning, which means everyone has an opinion on how it should be done.”
In real life, Douglas is married to Catherine Zeta-Jones, 43, who recently returned to treatment for bipolar II disorder. While she has the support of her husband, the Oscar-winning actor and son of Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas has dealt with several other personal crises, including stage four throat cancer and the incarceration of his son Cameron for drug-related charges.
“I have gone from being a very disappointed but loving father who felt his son got what was due him to realizing that Lady Justice’s blindfold is really slipping,” Douglas tells New York about Cameron’s experience with the criminal justice system. “I’m not defending Cameron as a drug dealer or drug addict, but I believe, because of his last name, he’s been made an example … When he had the ‘slip,’ I said, ‘You were two weeks away from starting your rehab program!’ But years of shooting up heroin screws up your system.”
Cameron’s legal problems coincided with Douglas’s cancer diagnosis in 2010, when doctors discovered a tumor at the base of his tongue. Douglas fought it with a combination of radiation and chemotherapy, which fortunately worked – even if it was a rough road to recovery.
“When I was ill, I mostly lay on that couch,” he explains. “I watched a lot of sports, anything where I didn’t know the ending … I did [miss working], but I was too weak to miss much of anything. I was stage four, and there is no stage five.”
But after his recovery he did return to work, and today he is clear-eyed about the opportunities – and drawbacks – of coming from Hollywood royalty.
“The good and the bad of being second generation is there are no illusions,” he says, pointing out that only a few, like him and Jane Fonda, have been truly successful. “I always knew that this was a business. It can be wonderful, but it is a business.”