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Screen legend Michael Douglas earns Emmy nod

Words by Rob Chilton

The screen legend has received an Emmy nomination for The Kominsky Method, another high point in a giant career packed with memorable roles that often captured the zeitgeist.  

A brilliant actor armed with huge charisma and good looks, a superb picker of roles and part of the Hollywood establishment thanks to his father Kirk – Michael Douglas is one of the greats.

But before embarking on a journey through the fascinating career of Douglas, it’s important to give credit to the exceptional actresses who have helped him on his way.

As one of the most generous men in movies, Douglas is more than happy to acknowledge that the chemistry he enjoyed with Kathleen Turner (Romancing the Stone), Demi More (Disclosure), Sharon Stone (Basic Instinct) and Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction) has played a major part in his success.

“One of the things I’m most proud about is most of the women I’ve worked with gave their best performances in movies we did,” says Douglas, now 74, and up for an Emmy this month for his performance in Netflix comedy The Kominsky Method.

THE KOMINSKY METHOD.

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Douglas has been Emmy nominated for The Kominsky Method

After starting out in TV show The Streets of San Francisco in the early 1970s, Douglas produced the Oscar-winning Jack Nicholson drama One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. His breakthrough movie role came in 1984 as a machete-wielding wheeler-dealer in Romancing the Stone.

Romancing the Stone.

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Adventures with Kathleen Turner in Romancing the Stone

The rest of the 1980s saw Douglas rise to the top of the A-list. It’s hard to think of an actor who’s had a better year than Michael Douglas did in 1987 with the release of Fatal Attraction and Wall Street, both of which had enormous impact, not only at the box office, but also in society.

In Fatal Attraction he plays a regular Manhattan guy, a loving husband and doting dad who trips over the lead as he walks the family dog, but throws it all away in a moment of madness when he has an office fling with a fabulously terrifying Glenn Close.

Fatal Attraction.

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Glenn Close seduces Douglas in Fatal Attraction

Then along comes Wall Street, which won Douglas an Oscar for his portrayal of financial piranha Gordon Gekko. Douglas called the character “confident and charming and seductive” and audiences agreed as they found themselves unsure whether to hate Gekko or quote his lines at work the next day.

Wall Street.

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Hatching a plan as the greedy Gordon Gekko

Both films hit the zeitgeist, as did the sexual harassment theme of Disclosure in 1994 with Demi Moore. Fatal Attraction, which nabbed six Oscar nominations, gave birth to the phrase ‘bunny boiler’ while “greed is good” from Wall Street is one of the most famous movie quotes of all time.

Douglas has a knack of picking a role and a film that sticks in the memory, a fine example being Basic Instinct with Sharon Stone that has been parodied hundreds of times since and continues to be a touchpoint of 1990s cinema.

Basic Instinct.

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Douglas and Sharon Stone get close in Basic Instinct

Although equipped with leading man looks, Douglas has never trodden the easy path of empty, handsome male characters. He’s revelled in the murky, ethically ambiguous roles – see The War of the Roses, Falling Down and The Game. In Romancing the Stone, directed by the great Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Back to the Future trilogy) Douglas plays a cad who first tries to con Kathleen Turner’s character but ultimately becomes her hero.

Falling Down.

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On the rampage in Falling Down

After marrying Catherine Zeta Jones almost 20 years ago, Douglas has continued to work, most triumphantly as the flamboyant pianist Liberace in HBO’s 2013 biopic Behind the Candelabra, for which he won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, and a SAG award.

Behind the Candelabra.

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Playing along as Liberace in Behind the Candelabra

Now Douglas is enjoying another golden moment as acting coach Sandy Kominsky in The Kominsky Method, opposite the great Alan Arkin.

The Kominsky Method.

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Douglas and Alan Arkin in The Kominsky Method

Douglas already won a Golden Globe for the poignant show in January and may win the Emmy on September 22, all of which is yet more proof that, when it comes to picking a part, Michael Douglas’ judgement is hard to fault.

The Emmys are on September 22

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