Hollywood veteran Michael Douglas was in an expansive mood while delivering a masterclass at the recently concluded International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goa, where he also accepted a lifetime achievement award.
Douglas was in conversation with producer Shailendra Singh, with whom he explored a sequel to “Romancing the Stone” called “Chasing the Monsoon” 17 years ago. The pair are now looking at another film. “We have a project that we are working on, it’s an outline now. We need to talk a little bit more about the characterizations and storylines, but I hope so, I would be really excited,” Douglas said.
The two-time Oscar winner’s comfort level with Singh, who was instrumental in bringing him to India this year, with the seeds sown at the Cannes India pavilion earlier this year, was evident. Douglas was candid about the emotional struggle he went through while his son Cameron battled drug addiction.
“The hardest time for me I think was with my oldest son Cameron who was in prison, incarcerated for seven and a half years. He was a drug addict and [had] issues, serious issues. That was the toughest time for me, my heart. And not to mention, dealing with his addiction,” Douglas said.
Speaking about the two years of solitary confinement that his son underwent, Douglas said, “The problem with drugs is sometimes you have to bottom out before you realize. And in his case, because he was involved in selling, in terms of having enough money for his drug habit, and got caught. And then you get a very severe sentence for a nonviolent drug offence.”
Douglas said that he got cancer right after and that the stress of dealing with his son’s addiction possibly contributed to it. “It made me understand probably even more deeply drug addiction. I mean, the chemical addiction to drugs and how difficult and how strong it is, what it creates your mind to do what you do to hang on to that addiction,” Douglas said.
On a happier note, Douglas recounted how he persuaded his father Kirk Douglas not to sell the rights to Ken Kesey’s novel “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and was convinced that he could raise the finance himself. In the process, he dropped out of immensely popular and long-running series “The Streets of San Francisco” where he starred alongside Karl Malden.
“In the fifth year of the series, I finally got the finances together to make the picture. And I left the series. People said I was crazy. It was a very, very successful show,” Douglas said. “I had a wonderful, wonderful actor named Karl Malden, who was my costar and the star of the series. And I said, ‘Look, you know how long I’ve been working on this, will you let me out of my contract to go and pursue this?’ And he said yes, he was he was very nice, and the producers. By the way, this would never happen now, nobody would let you out of a contract.”
“That was the beginning then of my producing career, but everything between the experience that I had on the series – 104 hours – this was the core for me of basically always looking at the material, not concerned about my part as an actor, thinking what would be a good movie,” Douglas added. “I wanted to be in good movies. I didn’t care if I had a smaller part, I’d rather have a small part in a good movie than a big part in a bad movie.”
Douglas said that his gravelly voice was thanks to the stage four cancer he contracted after “Wall Street.” To illustrate, Singh got the actor to repeat a gravelly-voiced dialogue from Indian cinema legend Amitabh Bachchan’s “Shahenshah” that brought the house down.