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Inside Michael Douglas' relationship with late father and 'inspiration' Kirk Douglas

The Franklin actor became close to his father later in life 

Michael and Kirk Douglas chat at  Children Of Chernobyl's Children At Heart Gala in 2011
Megan Bull
TV Writer
11 April 2024
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Michael Douglas cites his late father and Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas as a major inspiration, but like all families, the pair had their ups and downs.

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 Speaking to The Guardian in 2016, the A-lister explained: "Whichever way you cut it, Kirk was a man who cast – who still casts, aged 99 – an extremely long shadow. He was, and is, incredibly dynamic, larger than life, sometimes aggressive, a very masculine man who loved women, as my mother quickly discovered.

"Within 18 months of him being in California, she had seen and read enough to call time on the marriage. They divorced [in 1951] when I was seven and my younger brother, Joel, four." 

Kirk Douglas pays surprise visit to his son Michael Douglas on the movie set, "Hail, Hero" © Getty
Following his parents divorce, Michael would visit his father Kirk in the holidays

Michael and Joel went on to live with their mother, actress Diana Dill and stepfather Bill Darrid, but the Ant-Man star and his brother would spend the holidays with Kirk. 

"We would visit him on set. I had my 16th birthday in Los Angeles. Hayley Mills was my date. Or we would go to Kirk's house in Palm Springs where Joel and I became the Desert Rats, riding horses out into the countryside," Michael noted. 

"People such as Burt Lancaster, Frank Sinatra and Tony Curtis would drop by. All of that left a lasting impression although, looking back, I can see that Dad was film star first, father second. We were much more emotionally attached to our stepfather." 

Kirk Douglas and son producer/actor Michael Douglas arrive at the premiere of "It Runs In The Family" at the Bruin Theater on April 7, 2003 in Los Angeles, California.© Getty Images
Kirk explained that he grew closer to Michael after he embarked on his own acting career

Michael and Kirk's relationship, at times strained, improved later in life. "Michael didn't like me much after his mother and I got divorced. It was only when he started acting that we became close," Kirk previously admitted

Reflecting on his father's influence on his life and career, Michael shared the best advice he ever got from his dad. "Whatever you do in life, just do it to your utmost ability," he recalled to ET. "Do it with full commitment, and then, screw it. If it doesn't work out, move on. But, you know, you left it with the idea that there is nothing more you could have done."

Michael Douglas and his children Dylan and Carys with his dad Kirk Douglas© Instagram
Kirk with his son Michael and grandchildren Dylan and Carys Douglas

After rebuilding their relationship, Michael and Kirk became closer than ever, with the Spartacus star spending plenty of time with his daughter-in-law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and grandchildren Cameron, Dylan and Carys Douglas. 

When Kirk passed away in February 2020, Michael was the first to share the news. Posting a carousel of family photos, he began: "It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103. 

Michael and Kirk Douglas at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in 2012© Getty
Michael announced that Kirk had passed away in 2020

“To the world he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to.

"But to me and my brothers Joel and Peter he was simply Dad, to Catherine, a wonderful father-in-law, to his grandchildren and great-grandchild their loving grandfather, and to his wife Anne, a wonderful husband.

"Kirk's life was well lived, and he leaves a legacy in film that will endure for generations to come, and a history as a renowned philanthropist who worked to aid the public and bring peace to the planet. Let me end with the words I told him on his last birthday and which will always remain true. Dad – I love you so much and I am so proud to be your son." 

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