The Son Also Rises to Accept Cecil B. DeMille Award

Jan 19, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Michael Douglas has been a member of Hollywood’s elite for decades-a sexy leading man, an artist with a knack for hooking into the spirit of his times, a successful producer, Oscar winner and son of a Hollywood legend. Now, thanks to the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Mr. Douglas is being honored at the 61st Annual Golden Globe Awards Jan. 25 with the Cecil B. DeMille Award for outstanding contribution to the entertainment world.
With this, the 59-year-old Mr. Douglas joins luminaries such as his own father, Kirk Douglas, who received the award in 1968. Michael Douglas is the first second-generation DeMille honoree.
During his career, Mr. Douglas has won two Golden Globes, one for best actor in a drama for the film “Wall Street” and another as producer of the motion picture “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” He has received four additional Golden Globe nominations, three as best actor in a motion picture, for “Wonder Boys,” “The American President” and “The War of the Roses,” and one for best television actor for “The Streets of San Francisco,” the 1970s series that thrust him into stardom.
Unlike the other Golden Globe Awards, which are chosen by the group’s 93 members, the DeMille is given annually to a single recipient chosen by the association’s nine-person board of directors. The selection begins with a process overseen by auditors Ernst & Young in which each board member submits three names for consideration.
“He [Mr. Douglas] has had a good career. He worked for many years on `The Streets of San Francisco,’ then blossomed as a producer. He’s made a lot of interesting films,” said HFPA Treasurer and former President Philip Berk, who participated in the selection. “Beyond his acting career, he’s also become involved with the United Nations, and he’s an extremely articulate person, remarkably poised. He could run for governor of California.”
Bearing an unmistakable physical resemblance to his screen-icon father certainly helped Mr. Douglas in early acting auditions. But casting directors were undoubtedly delighted to learn he had the acting chops to go with his good connections.
He got his break after arriving in New York fresh from U.C. Santa Barbara in the late 1960s. The wide world got its first look at Mr. Douglas on Feb. 25, 1969, when he portrayed a scientist compromised by his work at a chemical company on the “CBS Playhouse” production of Ellen M. Violett’s “The Experiment.” Other television roles followed: a gig on the ABC made-for-TV thriller “When Michael Calls” in 1972, and appearances on CBS’s “Medical Center” and ABC’s “The FBI.” The late producer Quinn Martin hired Mr. Douglas to portray Karl Malden’s sidekick on ABC’s “The Streets of San Francisco.” The show was a hit, and Mr. Douglas’ role in it, from 1972 to 1976, was a large part of its appeal.
Movie stardom beckoned, but not before Mr. Douglas demonstrated his business acumen. He purchased the rights to Ken Kesey’s anti-establishment novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” from his father, pounded the pavement in search of financial backing, and eventually found it. The movie became a major artistic and commercial success (Academy Award winner as best picture in 1975) and established Mr. Douglas as an independent producer with clout and taste.
He teamed up with Jane Fonda and her IPC Films to co-produce and appear in “The China Syndrome” in 1979. If timing is everything, then Mr. Douglas has it. The movie about the risks of nuclear energy got a release date that virtually coincided with the real-life meltdown at Three Mile Island.
In screen roles, Mr. Douglas has tackled major topics of the day: reptilian greed in “Wall Street”; the perils of casual sex in “Fatal Attraction”; and middle-class frustration pushed to the limit in “Falling Down.” He is that rare, charismatic star who is capable of both larger-than-life screen heroics and quiet intensity used to illuminate the dark corners of our moral and ethical choices.
When he accepts this much-deserved award, his father is expected to attend.