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Years ago, when I was DJing a lot in New York, one night, I was playing at this club called Spa and I didn’t go on until 12 at night. He and his wife [Anne] showed up at around 12:30 a.m. He must’ve been in his late 80s, early 90s. It really was amazing. I went over to them and couldn’t really even talk because the music was so loud, but that’s just what they did. They always showed up — for everyone in the family. He was always there, always supportive and he believed in me even when maybe I had given up on myself. He made sure I knew that.
These past couple of years, I moved about 15 minutes away from them and have been spending a lot of time with him, bringing my daughter Vivian over on weekends. Just watching the bond between my daughter and grandfather was extremely special. One of the motivating factors behind bringing my family out to Los Angeles was to spend more time with him. That says a lot about the man that he was in my life and my desire to get my career going again soon enough so that he would be able to see the trajectory of my life starting to go in a positive direction. It’s what he called “functioning.”
He said to me, not that long ago, “Cameron, I’m so happy to see that you’re finally functioning.” That’s this kind of credo among the members of our family — to be “functioning” — and I know that made him proud. I was just shooting this indie movie [The Runner] and it’s really the first bigger piece of work I’ve had since coming home. It always made me so excited to be over with him, showing him stills from the movie.
He always used to tell me — even before I got this job, when I was doing a lot of auditioning — how he thought that I was truly talented and to keep going. To hear that coming from him was enough. He didn’t really have a secret about acting to pass along to me. His secret was hard work, being prepared and showing up. Then, if you have the talent and the work ethic, it will work out. That’s what’s ingrained in me from him.
My daughter is a little over 2 years old now, and they spent a lot of time together over the past year and a half. He would light up every time she was around. When she was in the same room, all she wanted to do was either be in his lap or be the focus of his attention. I’ll remind her of that when she gets older, showing her that connection through photos. It’s pretty special.
Losing him is one of those things that, even when you sort of see it coming — he was 103 — it’s still difficult. I take solace in the pride of being his grandson and having had the opportunity to spend as much time with him as I have. When I look at his life, what he accomplished and the way he carried himself, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone doing it any better.
Cameron Douglas is an actor, father and author. His debut book, Long Way Home, is a “memoir detailing his struggle to regain his dignity, humanity, and place in society after many years of drug abuse and almost eight years in prison.” He next stars in the independent film The Runner.
A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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