×

Michael Douglas Comes Full Circle With Monte Carlo Award

“It’s a nice full circle,” says Michael Douglas, speaking exclusively to Variety ahead of the Monte Carlo Television Festival, reflecting on a career that began in TV, blossomed in film, but has seen him return to the small screen in Netflix’s “The Kominsky Method.”

Douglas is this year’s recipient of Monte Carlo’s Crystal Nymph, awarded by Prince Albert II of Monaco to a major international television actor to recognize a stellar body of work.

For Douglas to accept an award from a TV festival is, on the surface, pretty remarkable. He fought hard early on to escape being pigeon-holed as a television actor.

While starring in the popular 1970s television series “The Streets of San Francisco,” he started his move into film, which was not an easy feat back then, producing 1975’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” best picture Oscar winner.

“It was extremely difficult for an actor to make the transition between television and movies. It was continually thrown in your face that audiences can see you on television for free, but have to pay to see you in the movies. That was the big separation. Before me, it was only really Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen who had made the transition from TV to feature films.”

Once Douglas found success in the movies, it seemed he would never look back at the small screen. As a producer or actor-producer, he was involved in such movies as “The China Syndrome,” “Romancing the Stone,” “Fatal Attraction” and “Traffic.” He also starred in hits such as “Basic Instinct,” “Falling Down” and “Wonder Boys” — earning an Academy Award for lead actor in “Wall Street.”

Even so, he says it wasn’t until the commercial success of “Fatal Attraction” and the critical reception for “Wall Street” that he felt truly accepted as a film actor.
“Mind you, that also involved me stepping out of the shadow of my father [Kirk Douglas] as well as the transition from television to feature films. But it took a while.”

It’s only recently that Douglas has returned to TV, starring opposite Alan Arkin in the Golden Globe-winning “The Kominsky Method,” written by Chuck Lorre (“The Big Bang Theory”).

“This is an exciting time. I never remember a time when it has been easier to go between feature films and television.”

Douglas is quick to point out that it’s important to differentiate between broadcast TV and streaming. “For me, the streaming phenomenon is wonderful.” He likes the flexibility it offers: the fact that “The Kominsky Method” “could be 20 minutes long or 40 minutes, and there are no commercials. Basically we are making a short film in six days. It is a lot of fun. You have great acting, a wonderful cast, a really good script, and we knock out eight to 10 of them in less time than it would take to do a feature film.”

Above all, Douglas stresses that this streaming era, in which an estimated 500 scripted series are being made a year in the U.S., is a “great time for actors, writers, producers and directors. Talent is in a really good situation in 2019.”

Asked if this is a golden age for production, Douglas hesitates. “It depends how you look at it.” He sees the 1970s and early 1980s as a golden age for feature films, contrasting it with modern day tentpole pictures that are very different from the kind of character-driven dramas that he likes to make.

Edged out of the cinemas, many of the latter have now found a home on streaming platforms. “That is why streaming is so successful,” he says. He supports the idea of streaming movies being eligible for the Academy Awards. “I saw how many independent pictures were treated poorly in their theatrical release. Streaming has allowed a lot of filmmakers to present their projects in a proper mode in terms of time and budget.”

Looking back on a career that now spans more than 50 years, he describes himself as a “story/script guy” and picks out films such as “Falling Down” and “Wonder Boys” as highlights.

“I liked those unpredictable pictures that have left audiences not quite certain in which direction it was going — I have always liked that gray area mix of protagonist and antagonist together.”

Ahead of travelling to Monte Carlo to pick up the Crystal Nymph, Douglas says: “It’s always nice to win … I look forward to seeing Prince Albert — I have known him over the years. And it’s always a nice time being in Monaco and the South of France.”

It’s an area he knows well — he filmed “The Jewel of the Nile” at Les Studios de la Victorine just along the coast in Nice, and was a part owner of the legendary studio for a while.

Now 74, Douglas has no plans to stop working. “I like working. I play a little golf. Other than that, the news is pretty depressing these days. So escapism is not a bad place to be. Hopefully I will keep on playing make believe as much as I can.”

More TV

  • Greyson Chance -Gabby Barrett Alejandro Aranda

    Greyson Chance, 'Idol' Alums Gabby Barrett and Alejandro Aranda Sign Major Label Deals

    Two “American Idol” alumni — Gabby Barrett and Alejandro Aranda — as well as viral star Greyson Chance all announced new major label recording contracts this week. Barrett, who finished in third place of the first season of the rebooted ABC version of “Idol,” has joined the roster of Warner Music Nashville. The singer had [...]

  • Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Cory Booker,

    MSNBC Hit With Technical Issues at Democratic Debate (Watch)

    MSNBC was left red-faced during Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential debates when audio issues plagued moderators Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow. The incident happened as Todd was about to ask Sen. Elizabeth Warren about gun control in the United States. “We are hearing our colleague’s audio,” Todd said as voices could be heard offscreen in the [...]

  • amazon-studios

    YouTube Head of Scripted Jon Wax in Talks to Join Amazon Studios

    YouTube’s head of scripted programming, Jon Wax, is in talks to join Amazon Studios, according to an individual with knowledge of the matter. Wax is said to be in discussions for head of genre programming at Amazon, a position held by Sharon Tal Yguado until recently. Variety reported on her exit in early May. The [...]

  • ARE YOU THE ONE SEASON 8

    MTV's 'Are You The One?' Shifts to Sexually Fluid Contestants for New Season

    MTV’s dating reality show “Are You The One?” is addressing changing attitudes regarding sexuality and gender identity by featuring sexually fluid contestants on the show’s eighth season, which bows June 27. The shift from the show’s past focus on heterosexual relationships is part of the larger effort at MTV to be relevant to younger viewers [...]

  • TV News Roundup: Amazon Drops 'Carnival

    TV News Roundup: Amazon Drops 'Carnival Row' Trailer (Watch)

    In today’s roundup, Amazon drops the first official trailer for “Carnival Row,” starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne. DATES August 1 will see the premiere of HGTV’s “Flip or Flop,” which follows divorced couple Christina Anstead and Tarek El Moussa as they figure out their relationship as co-parents and business partners. In the 18-episode season, the [...]

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    What 'The Office' Shifting Platforms Means for Netflix (Column)

    The most important television show of this unusual moment may just be one whose last new episode aired in 2013. “The Office” was, in its first life in the U.S., a beloved workplace comedy (based on a British series) that ran for nine seasons on NBC. In its protracted afterlife, though, it was known to [...]

  • Adam Scott Calls Out Mitch McConnell's

    Adam Scott Calls Out Mitch McConnell's Social Media Team for Using His Image on Twitter

    Adam Scott took to social media on Wednesday to tell Mitch McConnell’s reps not to use his image after the politician’s social media team tweeted a “Parks and Recreation” gif featuring Scott. “Dear Mitch McConnell & all those representing him, please refrain from using my image in support of anything but your own stunning [and] [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content