Michael Douglas Reveals Strained Early Relationship with Father Kirk Douglas

Michael Douglas discusses personal and professional life challenges

by Zain ul Abedin
Michael Douglas Reveals Strained Early Relationship with Father Kirk Douglas
© Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

In a candid interview on the May 3 episode of "Who's Talking to Chris Wallace?" streaming on MAX, Michael Douglas opened up about the evolving dynamics of his relationship with his late father, celebrated actor Kirk Douglas, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 103.

Michael, 79, shared that his early interactions with his father were less than ideal, primarily due to Kirk’s intense focus on his career which often came at the expense of family time. “It was not particularly good in the beginning, probably because of the amount of work that he was doing.

He just — career definitely went first before family," Michael recounted. However, as both father and son aged, their relationship underwent a significant transformation. Michael noted that during the latter stages of Kirk’s life, particularly the last two decades, their bond strengthened considerably, turning into a source of joy and closeness.

“But then in the sort of third act of his career, I think the second act, he was a little stunned that I was having a certain degree of success. It is a reminder for me now as I’m into my third act that we can change," he explained.

"And we were very close. So I'm happy to say that by the time he was ending his life and before that, the last 15, 20 years, were a joy to be with him."

Breaking Free of Legacy

The conversation also delved into Michael's own journey in Hollywood and how he navigated the pressures of living up to a legendary figure.

He admitted that establishing his identity was challenging, exacerbated by constant comparisons to his father. "It wasn't necessarily that I was doing it, but you'd be working with people [and] they’d go, ‘It's just like your father.

Your father does that, it's just really like your father.’ And, of course, we're in a career where you're trying to create your own identity," he said. Michael further revealed that it wasn’t until the simultaneous success of "Fatal Attraction" and his Oscar-winning performance in "Wall Street" in 1987 that he finally felt emancipated from his father's towering legacy.

"The commercial success of Fatal Attraction and winning the Oscar for Wall Street sort of finally got me free of that shadow, and I think that was a big moment," he reflected. This introspective discussion sheds light not only on the personal trials of one of Hollywood’s most famous families but also on the universal challenges of familial relationships and personal growth within the demanding entertainment industry.

Michael Douglas's full interview is currently available for streaming on Max, offering deeper insights into his storied career and complex family dynamics.