Michael Douglas stumbled into acting almost by chance. After aimlessly drifting through three years of college, he was forced by the school to choose a major. Douglas, with no particular interest in acting, chose theater arts because of his parents’ background in the industry. But his early performances were far from impressive, as even his father, Kirk Douglas, admitted.
Attending nearly every show despite his busy schedule, his father was honest and told him that his acting was “awful.” Michael acknowledged that his father was right and that he had a lot of room for improvement. He had a rough start, but Michael honed his craft and went on to have a successful career in acting.
Failing Health and Final Moments
Although Kirk Douglas had seemingly inexhaustible energy, his health gradually began failing him. In 1996, he suffered a severe stroke at age 79, which left him with impaired speech. Doctors initially believed that the damage was permanent, but he regained some of his speaking ability with regular speech therapy.
On February 5, 2020, Kirk Douglas passed away at age 103 at his home in Beverly Hills, surrounded by his loved ones. The family kept the cause of death private. His funeral was at the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery, where he was buried in the same plot as his son, Eric. On April 29, 2021, Douglas' wife Anne died at age 102 and now rests close to her husband and their son.
Michael Douglas Is Born
Michael Douglas, one of Hollywood's most celebrated actors, was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, as the first child of legendary Hollywood icons Kirk Douglas and Diana Dill. Kirk and Diana met while studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Michael has a younger brother named Joel Douglas and two half-brothers from his father's marriage to Anne Buydens namely, Peter and Eric Douglas.
In 1969, Douglas had his first breakthrough on television with a CBS Playhouse special called "The Experiment," where he was billed as "M.K. Douglas." This was the only time he used this billing name in his career.
The Story Behind K. Douglas
Michael Douglas had hoped to use his nickname "Mike" when he landed his first acting gig. He discovered that the name was already taken by another Mike Douglas, a popular TV talk show host of the time, leading to concerns about potential confusion among audiences. It explains why he went by "M.K. Douglas" in the 1969 CBS TV Playhouse special called "The Experiment.”
Some years later, a similar story played out when another actor with the birth name Michael Douglas had to change his name to avoid confusion with Michael Douglas - who had become a big star by then. This actor, Michael John Douglas, would become known as Michael Keaton in the entertainment industry.
Michael Douglas started his film career in the late 1960s and early 1970s, acting in relatively unknown films like "Adam at 6 A.M.," “Summertree,” and "Hail, Hero!.” His portrayal in “Hail, Hero!” received a nomination for the Golden Globe Award for Most Promising Male Newcomer. In the early 1970s, Douglas landed a big role on the television series "The Streets of San Francisco," which aired from 1972 to 1976.
He appeared alongside actor Karl Malden in the popular police drama. Douglas had a close relationship with Malden, whom he considered a mentor and deeply admired and loved. The two remained close for a long time until Malden's passing on July 1, 2009.