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Michael Douglas: 2000 was unforgettable

By
KAREN BUTLER

NEW YORK, Jan. 10 -- For veteran actor Michael Douglas, 2000 was an unforgettable year filled with triumphs in both his career and his personal life.

"It's going to be an easy year to remember," the star of "Fatal Attraction" and "Wall Street" wistfully told reporters in New York recently.

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"I asked for$(actress$)Catherine$(Zeta-Jones$)'s hand on New Year's Eve. We had 'Wonder Boys' come out. We've had a child and got married. And now 'Traffic.' It's very seldom in one's life where you can look at both sides -- your professional career and your personal life -- and feel as rewarded on both sides.

"And I'm grateful to have a few years in me now to appreciate that, and savor it. But all of this shall pass fairly soon, and it'll be somebody else getting married. And life will go on."

"Wonder Boys," in which Douglas plays a writer trying to recapture the magic that fired his first and only best-seller, and "Traffic," in which he plays a squeaky clean Supreme Court judge from Ohio appointed to be drug czar by the president, have earned Golden Globe nominations, while also generating Oscar buzz amongst film critics.

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"Wonder Boys" was released early last year, then again this winter in hopes of reminding Oscar voters of its charms. It will be available on video in late January.

In addition to being nominated in the "Best Motion Picture-Drama" category -- as was "Traffic" -- it also earned Douglas a nod for the "Best Performance of an Actor in a Motion Picture-Drama" prize.

Zeta-Jones was honored with a nomination for "Best Actress in a Supporting Role" for her work in "Traffic."

Despite the fact that Douglas and Zeta-Jones both have starring roles in "Traffic," the beautiful couple had no scenes together, something Douglas insisted didn't bother them in the least.

"With all the other kinds of pressures on us, it was just as well that we didn't," he explained. "And the history of couples working together in films has not been a great one."

He added that he and Zeta-Jones have discussed acting together and decided that if they did do a picture, it probably would be one in which they had an adversarial relationship.

"That would be more fun to do than one of these lovey, dovey kind of couple films. No, we approached 'Traffic' independently and thought it was a hoot!"

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Douglas said: "We shot Catherine's sequences first, since she was six months pregnant. We wanted to get her out of the way. I hung around in San Diego, just keeping an eye out as a future husband and father. But she was fine, she had no problems."

Speaking about his own role, Douglas said he loved playing aconservative man in charge of the American war on drugs who just happens to have a teen-age addict daughter spinning out of control.

"I think they purposely tried to show that extreme because we like to think that it's only dysfunctional families, liberal parents, where this drug issue enters, and that's not the case," he said. "It can hit anyone.

"So I think the realization for my character that my only child has succumbed is, you know, just this total shock."

The actor went on to say that he also enjoyed filming a scene where his character meets several real-life senators at a cocktail party in Washington.

"We just asked some senators to come down and talk to me, and give me some advice like I was the drug czar. So Sen. (Barbara) Boxer, (D-CAL), Sen. (Orrin) Hatch (R-UT) and some other senators came in and helped give$(the film$)a texture of reality.

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"And, of course, a lot of the scenes that I had at the Texas border were scenes where I was acting with federal agents. It was thrilling because you didn't know what was going to happen next."

Asked how he feels about violence in the movies, a topic close to Washington's heart these days, Douglas, who has played more than a few bad guys in his day, replied: "People are always after me about my movies."

"A movie that I produced like 'Face/Off,' for example, was a tremendous hit in Canada, and a big hit in Japan -- but nobody is getting shot over there because they don't have guns. I have issue particularly with these video games, which are unbelievable. I mean, I've seen a few of them for kids that are crazy, and I think the real problem is that our country has got an awful lot of guns," he said.

Douglas added that although he doesn't regret his film choices, he is sorry that his new son, Dylan, will have to wait awhile before he's old enough to watch any of dear old dad's movies.

"The problem I have is that I don't have many movies that anybody under 13 can go and watch!" he exclaimed. "I was thinking, 'It really is time to try to find a film I could do, that somebody 13 or under could see.'"

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Douglas joked that baby Dylan shouldn't have any trouble acting in movies, if he wants, though.

"I was thinking about that, and I said, 'Boy, his mom and dad are actors, and he was in his mom's stomach when he starred in his first movie, 'Traffic.' So it's probably definitely going to be in his blood!"

The fact that his grandfather is screen legend Kirk Douglas probably couldn't hurt either. After all, it was at his dad's knee that Douglas learned his craft so well.

"Learning how to conduct yourself is one of the biggest advantages of being second generation," he confessed. "You know, you grew up and you saw your dad getting attention and people taking photographs. You kind of saw how he behaved. And it gave you more of an understanding about all of the media attention that this business brings."

Douglas went on to say that he's not a big fan of his own old movies and rarely watches them when they come on TV.

"I'm not a big moviegoer or movie watcher," he confided. "I see them once in a while, and I'm proud of them. A lot of them stand up pretty well. But I did have a funny thing happen to my father about a couple of months ago. He called me and said, 'You know, I was watching one of my old movies on television. I couldn't remember the picture and I thought, 'I'm getting old.'

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'And then I looked and went, 'Wait a minute, that's not me. That's Michael!'NEWLN:

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