Michael Douglas opens up in the new Vanity Fair about the mistakes he made with his son Cameron, and how he is trying to do a better job with his family with Catherine Zeta-Jones. Cameron faces at least ten years in prison for trafficking meth.
Michael told Vanity Fair that the situation facing his 31-year-old son, Cameron “is one of those worst-case scenarios.”
“Anybody who has a relative or child in substance abuse has some idea of what this feels like,” Michael said. “It will ultimately be a painful lesson and very expensive as far as time is concerned. I don’t wish it on anybody, but then, you know, look, everybody’s got difficult things in life.”
Michael can’t help but see his own role in Cameron’s fate. “My priorities were very similar [to my father’s],” he said about Cameron’s formative years. “Career first.”
During Michael’s own childhood, his father, the actor Kirk Douglas, was distant and volatile to his young sons. “He was a very intense, talented survivalist,” Michael said. “He was consumed with clawing out and making something of himself, and he probably was a little early in his career to have children. Certainly didn’t get a chance to enjoy them until later in life.”
About himself, not Cameron, who also pursued acting, Michael said, “The history of second-generation actors isn’t great in our industry. It’s kind of a tragic road, actually.”
When Kirk suffered a stroke, in 1996, five years after he’d survived a helicopter collision that took two lives, he decided God was trying to punish him, and with the encouragement of his wife he started studying Torah, was Bar Mitzvahed, and began, as he put it, “an audit of my life.” Michael said that he and his father, who is 93, have never been closer, and that the stroke was the best thing to happen to him. “He’s doing scarily well,” Michael said.
Michael’s relationship with Catherine Zeta-Jones gave him the chance for a do-over at marriage and fatherhood. Catherine said their courtship “was nine months of telephone calls and surprise flowers and a dinner here and a drink there.”
Their wedding, in 2000, was greeted with snarky remarks about the 25-year age difference, Michael said: “It was thrown up at you constantly. I felt bad for her.”
Michael said that he has learned a great deal about what makes marriages work: “We always tend to be kinder or make more of an effort to strangers than we do to the person closest to us.”
For Michael, fatherhood is now a source of joy and not guilt. Catherine said that the couple is determined that their kids not be raised by nannies, and that “they need to have a consistency and schedule in their life just like every other kid. They need to form friendships, turn up on their out-of-school curriculum, do their Scouts, and their ballet, and their hip-hop.”
Of Michael’s relationship with their children–Dylan, 9, and Carys, 6, Catherine said, “I’m sure if he could breast-feed, he would have. He has more time to spend with them and to focus on them.”
The April issue of Vanity Fair hits newsstands in New York and Los Angeles on March 3rd and nationally on March 9th.