Michael Douglas shoots an icy look at a reporter who asks whether people thought his career might be over after he was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2010. In fact, at 68 and disease-free, Douglas feels better than ever. “I’m working harder and more than I had before the cancer,” he says.
Douglas is now busy promoting his first post-cancer role as the flamboyant pianist Liberace in HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, airing this spring. Matt Damon plays his lover, Scott.
Cancer helped him gain a new appreciation for both life and work. “It certainly gave me a joy to be back, and it was important for me to go back to work. There was a point when I realized nothing had changed,” he says. “And to be with a group as nice as this one was special.”
In fact, Douglas looks better than he has in many years. He’s always had a sort of disheveled appearance. On this day, while conducting interviews at The Langham Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, Calif., his suit was not quite as rumpled and his gray-blond hair looked almost as if it had seen a comb in the last few days.
The handsome son of Hollywood icon Kirk Douglas and husband of actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, Michael Douglas chose to take on the risky role as his comeback, but the idea was percolating for a dozen years. Back in 2000, when he and director Steven Soderbergh worked on Traffic, Soderbergh decided he wanted Douglas as Liberace.
“I stayed in touch with him while he was in treatment to let him know we were ready when he was ready,” Soderbergh says. “By the time we started production, he was 100 percent. I didn’t see anything in his energy or his attitude that indicated he was sick. “I think this was a role he was excited about, so I was really happy that we were the first thing he was going to do after he returned to acting,” Soderbergh continues. “He’s got a very strong constitution, and with a dad who is still active at 96, obviously, the gene pool is very good. He didn’t even lose his hair.”