The actor, who is now married to Catherine Zeta-Jones, has opened up about his regrets
From Oscars to booze addiction, Michael Douglas has had one of the most colourful lives in Hollywood.
In his 45-year career, the millionaire, married to Catherine Zeta-Jones, has battled throat cancer and has even seen his son jailed for drug offences.
But now, at 68, he is taking a long look back over his life.
Surprisingly, there is only one regret – he wishes he had divorced first wife, Diandra, sooner.
He says: “I know I’m going to get into trouble here. I have nothing against her and in fact I’m very fond of my first wife. But we should have ended that marriage eight or 10 years earlier.
“It took me too long to realise that if you go to a marriage counsellor to resolve problems, it’s in his interest to keep the marriage going.
“Because if I end the marriage he’s got no business. I think Diandra would probably say the same thing. That’s the only clear regret that I have.”
The couple married in March 1977, separated in 1995 and finally divorced in 2000.
After they separated, Michael’s adventures with women and alcohol became the talk of Hollywood.
He went to rehab in the 1990s for what he said was an alcohol problem, but was widely reported to be sex addiction.
It seemed years of partying may have taken their toll when he was told he had stage-four throat cancer in August 2010, a diagnosis that is usually terminal.
Asked if he regretted the drinking and smoking that could have caused it, he said no – because it was from years of performing oral sex on women instead.
But against the odds, determined Michael defied doctors to pull through and has been clear for two years.
He made a spectacular return to the screen, including playing Liberace in Behind the Candelabra, a performance widely tipped to win him awards.
Michael still has check-ups every six months to ensure the cancer has not returned and wife Catherine, 43, has been by his side throughout his illness.
They got hitched in November 2000, signing a prenup after Michael’s divorce from Diandra cost him a rumoured £30million.
Catherine, who starred in Chicago and Ocean’s Twelve, also has her own battle – she recently had treatment in rehab for bipolar disorder.
And after all they have been through, Michael admits that true love takes work.
Speaking at a hotel in New York, he says: “Love is an extraordinary feeling that comes from the bottom of your soul, but has to be nurtured, you know.
“The thing I’ve learned about getting older is you can’t take love for granted. You protect it, nurture it and it grows and after one’s initial, physical emotional aspects, it becomes deeper.”
Michael, who has children Dylan, 12, and Carys, 10, with Catherine, as well as jailed son Cameron with Diandra, continues: “Happiness is moments.
“I don’t think anyone walks around happy all the time unless they’re completely medicated. Happiness is cherishing good moments and trying to link together more good moments than bad.”
Now, Michael’s womanising days are over and he spends as much time with Catherine and his children as he can.
He says: “I love kids and I love having had this second chance to have a family.
“There’s something about the innocence and unequivocal love that children have.
“You’re just their dad and there’s a complete love without them having any judgment, so I enjoy that a lot.”
And even though he is back at work, filming And So It Goes with Diane Keaton, the A-list actor sounds more like the average dad than a Hollywood superstar.
He says: “I do whatever I can – there are a tremendous number of school activities!
“My daughter is a horseback rider so I try to watch her ride, we take holidays together.
“I got Dylan his diving permit so he and I dive together. He likes surfing, so we try to go and find places on holiday where there is good surf.
“They’re just at a great age. It’s a lovely time but I know how fast it goes.
“Soon, they’re not going to want to see dad, they’ll want to see their friends.”
Just as Michael followed his dad Kirk Douglas into acting, he believes his youngest children will follow him into showbiz – Carys as a singer, pianist and dancer and Dylan as an actor. Michael has already arranged auditions for them.
Michael’s first experience on set was as a 16-year-old runner on his father’s production of Spartacus.
He made his acting debut in Adam At 6am, which was produced by Steve McQueen.
He grins: “I got paid $3,800 and in the movie I drove an orange Porsche.
“When I finished the picture Steve McQueen gave me the car, which was worth more than my paycheck for the movie.”
In later years Michael had some memorable roles in movies Falling Down, The War of the Roses, The Game, Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct.
He co-produced One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, which won the Best Picture Oscar and he bagged Best Actor for his role as trader Gordon Gekko in Wall Street.
But it was not all rosy and he had his share of flops too. The failure of a pet project, It Runs In The Family, in which he starred with dad Kirk and son Cameron, hit him hard.
Then came tragedy. Michael’s half-brother Eric, who was Kirk’s son from his marriage to producer Anne Buydens, died aged 46 in 2004 after struggling with drug and alcohol abuse.
But it is Cameron’s drug problems that have dogged Michael. The 34-year-old is serving a nine-and-a-half year term for drug offences.
In a letter to the court in 2010, Michael blamed “genes, family and peer pressure” for contributing to his son’s problems and painted his substance abuse as the product, in part, of a privileged but difficult childhood and the long shadow cast by a family of screen icons.
He wrote: “I have some idea of the pressure of finding your own identity with a famous father.”
He also listed names in court, which were later blacked out, of other Douglas family members who he said had suffered substance abuse problems.
Now, he talks philosophically about his son.
He says: “He’s a great young man so I hope he gets it all together. He’s in prison and he’s going to be there for a while.
“He knows what he’s done and takes full responsibility for it and I can see now it may be the best place for somebody to sort out the next chapter in his life. I’m there for him and supporting him.”
Despite fame contributing to his family’s problems, Michael also admits it has its advantages.
He reveals: “Money allows you choices. It allows you to support organisations that mean something to you.
“The nice thing about fame is you can get into restaurants. They recognise your face and they usually treat you nicely.”
Despite being worth millions, and having a wife who loves shopping, Michael also reveals he is still thrifty when it comes to choosing his outfits – taking them from his film sets.
He says: “People tease me because my wardrobe is usually my wardrobe from movies.
“What I do is, when I go in for a costume fitting and I see a couple of things they’re not going to use, I say, ‘I’ll take that’, ‘I’ll take that’.
“So I don’t go shopping. I’ve got clothes from all my movies. Catherine isn’t happy about it and tries to get things for me from time to time but I’m not a person who wants objects.”
Laughing, he adds: “I guess I love land. Some people would pay a fortune for a painting but I love beautiful environments and views.
“I love to travel, it’s my luxury – travelling as first class as I can to interesting, exotic places.
“As for success, if you’d told me when I started this in 1968 that I would still be doing it and doing four pictures a year at retirement age, I wouldn’t have believed it. But it’s rewarding.
“You know, I’ve taken a lot of gambles in my life in the parts I’ve chosen and where I’ve lived. I haven’t played the Hollywood game even though we’re acknowledged as a Hollywood family. I really haven’t lived there.
I grew up back East and I’ve kept my family out of Los Angeles because I think it’s a difficult place to raise kids.
“It was all a gamble… but it’s paid off all right.”