Oscars 2012: 15 Icons Recount the Night That Changed Their Lives Forever
Being the son of one of the great screen icons is not without its challenges. By the mid-’70s — thanks to his co-starring role in TV’s The Streets of San Francisco — Michael Douglas had started to carve out his own identity, but it wasn’t until the 48th Awards in 1976 that the industry stopped thinking of him as just Kirk’s son.
That night, Michael Douglas arrived at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as producer of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Kirk had starred in a Broadway adaptation of Ken Kesey’s 1962 novel about the rebellious Randle Patrick McMurphy, who fakes insanity in a crazy world. But when he couldn’t set up a film version himself, he handed it off to his son, who ran with it.
A counterculture hit from United Artists, the movie won the five top Oscars: Producers Douglas and Saul Zaentz, director Milos Forman, stars Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher and writers Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman were all called to the winner’s podium — the first such sweep since 1934’s It Happened One Night.
“Having been a second-generation kid in this business, receiving the Oscar really meant a lot to me and helped me step out of [Kirk’s] shadow,” says Douglas, 67. It also marked him as a filmmaker with a special talent for connecting with the zeitgeist.
His 1979 The China Syndrome, which he produced and starred in, opened just 12 days before the Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown. His star turn in 1987’s Fatal Attraction capitalized on rising anxiety between the sexes. And that same year, he stepped into arguably his most indelible role as Gordon (“Greed is good”) Gekko in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street. That performance — as iconic as any his father ever gave — brought Douglas his second nomination and second win.
“I’ve been in the fortunate situation where I’ve been nominated twice and won each time,” says Douglas, who is married to another Oscar winner, Catherine Zeta-Jones. “So I haven’t gone through the tsuris most people have had of multiple nominations and losing.” — Stephen Galloway