Michael Douglas: A Biography

Marc Eliot. Crown, $26 (352p) ISBN 978-0-307-95236-3
Eliot’s series of actor biographies (Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood) here looks at the life and career of actor-producer Douglas. Curiously, Eliot has almost nothing to say about the actor’s childhood, but accelerates in covering his communal counterculture life at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his friendship with roommate Danny DeVito when both were struggling actors in New York City. After a foothold doing minor film roles in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Douglas gained a following when he portrayed a detective during four seasons of The Streets of San Francisco on television. Shifting gears, he scored accolades when he produced the multi-Oscar winner One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, later commenting, “My producing career evolved out of my inability to get parts as an actor.” Eliot surveys the acclaim and box-office bonanza that followed: The China Syndrome, Romancing the Stone, Fatal Attraction, Wall Street, and Basic Instinct, detailing Douglas’s rise as a romantic lead, both on-screen and off. Closing chapters cover his marriage to Catherine Zeta-Jones and his struggle with cancer. Highlighting father-son tensions with Kirk Douglas, Eliot succeeds with pages of psychological probes: “In a sense, Michael acted out his demons on-screen.” However, he often takes a journeyman cut-and-paste approach to writing, and since he did not interview Douglas, the book remains oddly distant from its subject. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/30/2012
Release date: 09/18/2012
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