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Michael Douglas

(1944 - )

Michael Kirk Douglas was born on September 25, 1944, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, to actor Kirk Douglas and his wife, Diana Dill. His paternal grandparents were Jewish emigrants from Chavusy (now in Belarus), and his father, Kirk, was born Issur Danielovitch. 

Michael grew up with three brothers: Joel, Peter and Eric. Michael Douglas grew up with a strained relationship with his father, which developed more as he progressed through life. He studied drama at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and in New York at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre and the American Place Theatre.

Douglas began his Hollywood career as an assistant director on some of father Kirk Douglas's 1960s films. After roles in several television dramas, he gained notoriety by co-starring with Karl Malden in the 1970s TV series The Streets of San Francisco(ABC, 1972-77). He also directed two episodes of the show.

In 1975, Douglas served as executive producer for Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which went on to win five Academy Awards, including one for Best Picture. He got involved in the film after his father, who owned the rights to Ken Kesey's novel of the same name, couldn't successfully develop it into a film. Despite the success of the film, it was difficult for Michael Douglas to find work as an actor, having received so much recognition as a producer. In 1979, he starred with Jane Fonda and Jack Lemmon in the film The China Syndrome, which he also co-produced.

Douglas landed his first leading man role in Romancing the Stone (1984), portraying Jack Colton, an Indiana Jones-type adventurer. This successful teaming of Douglas with Danny DeVito and Kathleen Turner led to a sequel, The Jewel of the Nile(1985). The three worked again in The War of the Roses (1989), a dark comedy about an ugly divorce.

In 1987, Douglas made two films that reflected a much darker side: Fatal Attraction, in which he played an adulterer stalked by an ex-lover—played by Glenn Close)—and Oliver Stone's Wall Street, in which he played the corporate raider Gordon Gekko, whose trademark slogan is "Greed is good." For this role, Douglas won an Academy Award for best actor. He continued exploring his dark side years later, co-starring with Sharon Stone in the thriller Basic Instinct in 1992.

In 1988, Douglas formed a production company, Stonebridge Entertainment, Inc., which produced Joel Schumacher's Flatliners (1990) and Richard Donner's Radio Flyer (1992). In 1993 he produced Made in America, then starred as a sexually harassed man in Michael Crichton's Disclosure (1994), and as the titular commander-in-chief in Rob Reiner's The American President (1995), co-starring Annette Bening.

In 1994, he signed a development deal at Paramount that included The Ghost and the Darkness (1996), The Game (1997) and A Perfect Murder (1998). He executive-produced The Rainmaker (1997), starring Matt Damon, as well as John Woo's 1997 action film, Face/Off. Douglas earned critical acclaim for his starring role as a rumpled novelist and English professor in Wonder Boys (2000).

Following in his father's footsteps, in 2004, Douglas was honored as the recipient of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Cecil B. DeMille Award for his "outstanding contribution to the entertainment field."

In 2010, Douglas announced that he would be reprising his role as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps. The film, also starring Shia LeBeouf and Carey Mulligan, was released in the United States that September. Douglas went on to work on the biopic Behind the Candelabra, starring in the film as the famous 1950s and '60s entertainer Wladziu Liberace. Matt Damon played his love interest in the critically acclaimed 2013 television movie. Douglas won an Emmy Award for his portrayal of the famed entertainer. 

He also filmed the movie Last Vegas (2013) with several Hollywood legends, including Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline. The following year, Douglas starred opposite Diane Keaton in And So It Goes and the thriller Beyond the Reach. In 2015, he starred as biochemist Hank Pym in the Marvel superhero action/comedy Ant-Man.

In an op-ed in the Los Angeles times published in March 2015, Douglas addressed an incident of anti-Semitism where his son was verbally acosted at a pool for wearing a Magen David necklace.  In the article, Douglas admits that he had recieved no formal religious upbringing from either one of his parents.  Douglas goes on to speak about how he reconnected with Judaism through preparing his son for his Bar Mitzvah.  In celebration of his son's Bar Mitzvah, Douglas and his family took a vacation to Israel.  Douglas stated in 2015 that he currently identifies as a Reform Jew, and has referred to the BDS movement as an ugly cancer.  

In 2015 Douglas was selected as the second annual recipient of the Genesis Prize, an award of $1 million given to Jewish individuals who have attained recognition and excellence in their fields.  Other winners include Michael Bloomberg, Natalie Portman, Itzhak Perlman, Anish Kapoor, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  

Sources: Michael Douglas Biography,, (February 21, 2018);
Michael Douglas.  Michael Douglas finds Judaism and faces anti-Semitism, Los Angeles Times, (March 15, 2015);
Michael Douglas, Wikipedia;