Michael Douglas receives AFI award

Kirk Douglas on hand for lifetime achievement tribute

For the first time in the history of the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Awards, a previous recipient -- Kirk Douglas, the 19th achievement award winner -- was on hand to see the honor passed on to his son, Michael Douglas, the 37th recipient.

Somewhat inevitably, one of the themes of the evening -- held on Soundstage 15 on the Sony Pictures lot in Culver City -- was how gracefully 37 had carved out his own career in the iconic shadow of 19.

"I'm too young to have a son getting a lifetime achievement award," Kirk, 92, cracked as he rose to lead off the evening of testimonials. Pretending to still be smarting from the fact that his son hadn't cast him in the Oscar-winning "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" -- which the younger Douglas produced after his father failed to get a film version off the ground -- the elder Douglas concluded with mock outrage and heartfelt sentiment: "I'm so proud of my son Michael. I don't tell him that very often."

Later in the evening, Kiefer Sutherland testified that he felt an immediate kinship with Michael since they both faced the challenge of honoring their fathers while charting their own paths in the family business.

And when Douglas rose to accept the award, he attributed his success to "great genes," paying tribute to his father and mother, Diana Douglas, who continue to work today "with the same passion for acting as when they began over 70 years ago."

But if there was any doubt that Michael Douglas had established himself as an actor, producer and humanitarian, that quickly disappeared in the course of the crisply edited evening of performances, film clips and remembrances from friends and colleagues.

The setting -- Judy Garland once danced down the yellow brick road on the same soundstage -- called for some showbiz razzmatazz. So Michael Douglas made his entrance with the help of a stunt double, who came crashing through a fake ceiling a la a stunt the actor performed in "The Game."

His wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, kicked off the evening, quite literally, with a high-stepping routine to the tune of "One" from "A Chorus Line," with lyrics rewritten to pay tribute to her husband.

Bob Dylan also made a surprise appearance to sing "Things Have Changed," the Oscar-winning song he penned for Douglas' film "Wonder Boys."

A trio of Douglas' female co-stars -- Kathleen Turner, Sharon Stone and Annette Bening -- spoke of his interest in roles that explored the tensions between men and women. Offering concurring opinions in taped appearances were "The China Syndrome's" Jane Fonda and "Fatal Attraction's" Glenn Close, who got one of the big laughs of the evening when the camera pulled back to reveal a bunny she claimed to be readying for dinner.

Karl Malden, with whom Douglas appeared on "The Streets of San Francisco" and whom he acknowledged as his real mentor in the business, appeared on tape, saying: "I wish Michael could have been my son. I'm so proud of him."

Other co-stars on hand included Matthew McConaughey, Tobey Maguire, Martin Sheen and Benicio Del Toro, while Warren Beatty, last year's recipient, joked that he hoped Douglas "will be as impressed by himself as I was by myself."

In a taped message, Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, lauded Douglas' efforts on behalf of nuclear disarmament, among other issues, as a U.N. messenger of peace. And one of the tribute's most emotional moments occurred when Steve Swankey, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone whose education Douglas had sponsored, rose to offer his thanks. Visibly moved, Douglas left the dais to embrace the young man.

The evening built to two of the high points in Douglas' career: "Wall Street," for which he won the best actor Oscar, and "Cuckoo's Nest," for which, as a producer, he took home a best picture trophy.

Referring to his indelible portrait of corporate raider Gordon Gekko, Sony president and CEO Howard Stringer said to Douglas, "You may be partly to blame for the global economic recession." And "Wall Street" director Oliver Stone, who is about to reteam with Douglas on a sequel, said of the actor's affinity for tackling hot-button issues, "Mr. Douglas has a knack for catching the wind."

Finally, "Cuckoo" star Jack Nicholson rose to present the AFI trophy to his longtime friend, "Mickey D."

"What's so incredibly fulfilling is to hear these things and not be dead," Douglas responded.

The evening also included the presentation of the Franklin J. Schaffner Alumni Medal to producer Steve Golin, a 1981 graduate of the AFI Conservatory.

The dinner will be broadcast July 19 by TV Land Prime under a new four-year deal with the AFI.