Michael Douglas Reveals How He Got Out of His Father Kirk Douglas’s Shadow

(Original Caption) Actor Kirk Douglas, paid a surprise visit to his son Michael Douglas on the movie set,
Bettmann/Getty; Kevin Winter/Getty Images for AFI

Michael Douglas followed in his father’s footsteps to have a successful acting career. His dad, Kirk Douglas, was best known for making movies in Hollywood’s Golden Age and became famous for roles in films such as Spartacus and Paths of Glory. When his son, Michael decided to become an actor, this opened up a lot of doors for him but Michael admitted that people would always say that he looked and sounded like his dad. It was tough to step out of his father’s shadow and carve a path out for himself.

American actor Kirk Douglas (right) and his son American actor Michael Douglas on the set of the film, 'Cast a Giant Shadow,' directed by Melville Shavelson, Rome, Italy, 1965. Kirk had the starring role and Michael had a bit part.

Hulton Archive/Getty Images

He explained, “You’re sort of feeling like, ‘Well, who am I?’ So I think it takes you longer to get your own identity, and it took me longer to sort of step out of the shadow of my dad. I didn’t really feel it until the year of Fatal Attraction and Wall Street together. The commercial success of Fatal Attraction and winning the Oscar for Wall Street sort of finally got me free of that shadow, and I think that’s was a big moment.” He noted that this took around two decades to happen.

It Runs in the Family Kirk Douglas, Michael Douglas, 2003

MGM/Everett Collection

Michael won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role in Wall Street and during his acceptance speech, he thanked his dad for helping him step out of his shadow. He also learned a lot from being the son of a famous movie star and realized the advantages and disadvantages early in his own career.

It Runs in the Family Michael Douglas, Kirk Douglas, 2003

MGM/Everett Collection

Michael said, “I think the advantage is that you were able to see your father as a movie star, his friends, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck, others, Tony Curtis, all of them coming, Frank Sinatra, and you see them with their own foibles You see them as regular people who had issues just like everybody else, and it took a lot of that pizzazz out of the thing, and I think helped you conduct your own life in a more practiced easier way. You weren’t affected by all the stuff like a lot of people who never come in before, so that was a big advantage.”

Ultimately after a long and fruitful career, Kirk passed away in 2020 at the age of 103.

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April 2020

Special Collector's edition for all fans of Hollywood Icon Kirk Douglas

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