Michael Douglas Is Prepping for First Post-Cancer Role

 Platon

In his first major interview since announcing his stage 4 throat cancer diagnosis, Michael Douglas tells the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter he's already begun preparing for his next role.

Douglas will play the title part in Steven Soderbergh's Liberace, which starts shooting in May or June and will require special prosthetic work as well as musical training. PHOTOS: Oscar's greatest moments.

"I've got a bunch of tapes of performances," Douglas -- who has to sip frequently from a drink to ease the dryness in his mouth (but whose distinctive voice is still as seductive as ever) tells THR. "I'm thinking; I'm a blank slate. Everything shows me he was a lovely man; I just want to reconfirm that." REVIEW: The original Wall Street.

He's also planning to take his family on a trip around the world. "They're at a good age where they'd be old enough to understand it but not be torn away from their peer group," he notes, then quips, "We just have to make sure we have enough stuff to do so we don't kill each other!"

Both projects, however, are secondary to restoring his health.

In January, Douglas will have a PET scan to learn whether his tumor has been eliminated. The prognosis seems good: Doctors at New York's Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have told him there's an 80 percent cure rate -- something he and wife Catherine Zeta-Jones focus on, in contrast to the doom-laden tabloids. VIDEO: See trailers from the movies earning Oscar buzz.

"I don't read any of that stuff, regardless of what it says," Zeta-Jones says. "Where it does affect me, it's the fact that Michael is sequestered in the apartment. But he really is on the upward curve now."

Even so, the illness weighs on him.

He's received advice from everyone and everywhere. He's frank about how "religion has certainly been shoved down my throat," though with a Jewish father and a Church of England mother, he has no formal religion. "I believe there is a spirit within us, which we nurture based upon our efforts and what we bring to the world," he says. "But it doesn't come from the outside; it comes from the inside."

As for how his illness has affected him, "I haven't really digested it yet, truth be told," he says. "As I looked through the stats, I didn't think of this as life and death; I just saw it as an illness to get over. So I didn't dig into the bottom of my soul to see what I could see." He smiles. "It certainly has put a little perspective on mortality, obviously."

"I've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support," he adds, choking up for the first time. "Cancer has shown me what family is. It showed me a love that I never knew really existed."

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