Celebrate Michael Douglas's 70th Birthday with a Look Back at His Work Onscreen
Actor Michael Douglas turns 70 on Thursday. That’s 70 years spent in front of cameras. What better way to celebrate his life so far than with a look back on his impressive body of work?
1. Douglas was famous before his first movie
Of course, being the son of another esteemed actor, Kirk Douglas, Michael was in the public eye before his acting career began. In this photo, dated Jan. 1, 1948, 3-year-old Michael already knew how to work the cameras.
2. Cast a Giant Shadow
His famous dad’s support also earned Michael Douglas his first onscreen role in this 1966 war movie. That’s Michael in the background, above his dad’s arm, in this scene with John Wayne. Considering his dad’s career, Cast a Giant Shadow seems especially meaningful, doesn’t it?
3. CBS Playhouse: “The Experiment”
Douglas’s breakout happened in a 1969 installment of CBS Playhouse. That’s about as young as you’ll see him in a starring role. He had those signature good looks even then.
4. Hail, Hero!
His first starring role in a feature film came with 1969’s Hail, Hero! Douglas plays a college student who joins the Vietnam War in hopes of spreading peace and love to the Viet Cong.
5. The Streets of San Francisco
It was this 1972 cop drama that helped make Douglas a household name – and introduced him to lifelong friend and mentor Karl Malden. Watch the credits and revel in the fantastic ’70s-ness of it all.
6. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Movie buffs are probably thinking, “I don’t remember Michael Douglas being in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” You’re right. He wasn’t. But at just 31 years old, he co-produced it. (Check for his name at the 2:22 mark.)
7. Production Credits Galore
Fans of Douglas’s acting might not realize that he has a healthy side career as a producer. His list of hits includes several films he acted in (The China Syndrome, Romancing the Stone and this year’s The Reach), but also others in which he does not appear onscreen (Flatliners, Starman, Radio Flyer, Made in America, Face/Off and The Rainmaker, among others).
8. Romancing the Stone
This 1984 action comedy teamed Douglas with Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito, and they’d join up again for the sequel, Jewel of the Nile, as well as War of the Roses. Turner only got the Stone part after Debra Winger didn’t because she allegedly bit Michael Douglas, as Turner recalls in her memoirs.
9. Wall Street
No write-up of Douglas’s career could skip over the movie that gave us Gordon Gekko. But did you know that the character’s supposed catchphrase, “Greed is good,” is never actually uttered in the movie? Listen for yourself.
10. The Pat Riley Connection
One more from Wall Street: In real life, Douglas is good friends with Pat Riley, who coached the Los Angeles Lakers from 1981 to 1990. Check that slicked-back hair on Riley. Look familiar? It’s reported that Riley greatly influenced the look and style of Douglas’s infamous role.
11. Fatal Attraction
WARNING: Graphic Video
There’s a lot that stands out in this film, but the vicious, climactic bathroom brawl between Douglas and Glenn Close might be the most lingering image. Making it all the more remarkable is to hear the two actors discuss how comforting and safe they made each other feel while filming Fatal Attraction, as they recalled in a 2010 reunion special.
12. Basic Instinct
Fatal Attraction is a tough act to follow, but Basic Instinct managed to turn heads all the same. Douglas, however, said in an interview that Basic Instinct would be hard-pressed to get as much attention today.
“I think it’s increasingly difficult on film to do sexual-type movies because of what exists on the Internet, what exists on cable television now, what exists on Desperate Housewives. The broadcasting standards have changed and there’s much more titillation involved in that area. So, I think that makes a big difference.”
13. Falling Down
According to IMDB, Douglas considers his performance as the put-upon antihero to be his best ever. His dad agrees. Additionally, in the DVD commentary for the eighth season of The Simpsons, writer Jim Reardon admits that Douglas’s character inspired Frank Grimes, Homer’s arch-nemesis and a guy similarly frustrated with society.
14. The American President
Douglas’s turn as President Andrew Shepherd ended up becoming one of the most beloved depictions of a fictional president ever, but the role was originally intended for Robert Redford, who dropped out before filming began.
This 2000 drama was a much-buzzed-about project starring one of Hollywood’s hottest couples, as Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones had begun dating in early 1999. But it’s hard to credit Traffic for bringing the pair any closer together, because Douglas and Zeta-Jones don’t share a single scene together in the film.
16. Behind the Candelabra
Not that an accomplished actor such as Douglas wouldn’t have nailed the part anyway, but his performance as Liberace might have been helped by his one-on-one experience with the performer, per an interview with Vulture:
“I met him once with my father in Palm Springs, where they both had homes, but what I mostly remember is Lee s TV show. Liberace talked directly to the camera – he was the first person to do that. He was having such a good time that he was contagious.”
This latest Marvel universe superhero movie isn’t due out until 2015, but it has Douglas playing Dr. Hank Pym, a.k.a. Ant-Man. How many 70-year-olds get to play a superhero?
Well done, Michael Douglas.