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The versatile Michael Douglas

The versatile Michael Douglas — The star of ”Basic Instinct” is at home both in front and behind the camera

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To a degree almost unprecedented in Hollywood, Michael Douglas is at home on both sides of the camera. Here are his comments about some of his projects as either producer or actor.

The Streets of San Francisco (1972-1976)
This ABC cop show put Douglas’ name on the map. He left to concentrate on a film career. ”I was fortunate enough to learn everything about production while doing this series. Just the fact of being in front of the camera as often as you could be, having to work with all those different guest stars, different directors every week. And that the most important thing in a movie is not your performance, but the fact that the movie works. I’ll always be grateful to Karl Malden, who really was a mentor to me. Being the second lead, [I] was always two steps back in soft focus. And Karl was the first to say, ‘Come on, you take the lead.”’

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
His first foray into producing won him the Oscar for Best Picture 16 years ago. ”I just loved the book. My father [Kirk Douglas] had bought it in galley form in 1959-60, and was trying to get the picture set up. It was very hard — people would say, ‘Nobody wants to make another Snake Pit,’ and all that. About the time I was going into episodic television I said, ‘Let me run with it,’ and he was kind enough to let me. It took about six or seven years, and I guess we did everything wrong, and yet everything right.”

Fatal Attraction (1987)
In this huge hit, Douglas (opposite the memorable Glenn Close) played an adulterer who somehow managed to hold moviegoers’ sympathy even as they argued the immorality of his actions. ”I think its critical attention really came after [its success], when people realized it was a well-made picture. For me as an actor, it came more at the time of the video, six months later. With a part like Basic Instinct, you’re carrying the story line, you don’t have the highs and lows. Fatal Attraction was like that: You have to create the reality and the credibility and let the other people bounce off the walls.”

The War of the Roses (1989)
This black comedy reunited Douglas with his costars from the hits Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile — Danny DeVito (who also directed) and Kathleen Turner. It brought in $84 million at the box office. ”A great screenplay, beautifully done, the sickest, absurdest movie in the world. Kathleen and I knew each others’ rhythms. And it worked, it was a big hit, nobody would have thought it. It’s way out there — waaay out there.”

Shining Through (1992)
Just before filming Basic Instinct, Douglas made this World War II spy thriller with Melanie Griffith. The movie opened in February to disappointing box office.” With Shining Through, I just thought, ‘I play all these characters who are flawed, a little dark, a little bent. Wouldn’t it be nice just to do an old-fashioned romantic lead, you know, and not carry a picture?’ And then Basic Instinct came up…”

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