David O. Selznick Award: Michael Douglas

PGA honors Oscar-winning producer of 'Nest'

Thirty-five years ago, Michael Douglas was in the home stretch of the event that would jumpstart a new career: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was about to start shooting.

“It doesn’t seem that long ago,” he admits. “And, boy, it changed my entire life, that’s for sure.”

At the time, Douglas was a well-known TV actor (“The Streets of San Francisco”) who’d started developing the project a few years before, “when my acting career was in a lull,” as he puts it. A year after that, when Douglas bounded onstage with co-producer Saul Zaentz to collect the 1975 best picture Oscar from presenter Audrey Hepburn, the 31-year-old was thrilled but also a tad wistful: “My father had wanted to play McMurphy, and that was always something, well, he never quite got over.” (Jack Nicholson won the Oscar for the role.)

A self-described late bloomer (“I was undecided in college until my junior year when I went into the family business”), Douglas stayed on the producer track, with a hidden agenda: “My early producing efforts were as much about me trying to move from TV to movies as an actor as anything else,” he says. “It wasn’t like it is now where actors from a series also make movies during their hiatus. Back then, Clint Eastwood was one of the very few actors who’d made the leap.”

Douglas produced and starred in 1979’s “China Syndrome” before hitting paydirt with “Romancing the Stone” and its sequel “Jewel of the Nile.” When those comedies turned him into a bona fide leading man, he quickly followed with “Fatal Attraction” and “Wall Street,” which brought him an Oscar for acting.

His producing skills were hardly dormant, however, and those credits include “Flatliners,” “Face/ Off” and “The Rainmaker.” Now 64, and with an acting career that keeps him in front of the camera as much as he wants (he has wrapped three films for release this year, including “Solitary Man”), Douglas stills looks for the right material to produce.

“I’ve got a few projects I’ll be getting around to,” he says. “The thing is, I enjoy producing, I really do. It lets me put my two cents in.” He laughs. “And it keeps me out of trouble!”