En español | Michael Douglas has been to jail. On this cold, gray afternoon, he's just completed the 14-mile roundtrip from his home on Manhattan's fashionable Upper West Side downtown to the Metropolitan Correctional Center, where his son Cameron, 31, is being held on a felony drug charge. "It's been very painful," he sighs, settling into a deep red armchair with a cup of coffee. Outside the windows of his apartment, Central Park is a riot of orange and red with the change of seasons. Inside, Douglas, his bright blue eyes clear though a little sad, is dressed all in black—black pants, black knit shirt, black shoes.
It's hard to imagine that the irony of this moment is lost on him. After all, in his next film, Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps (out April 23), he re-creates one of his most indelible screen roles, that of ruthless corporate raider Gordon Gekko. At the end of Gekko's first screen incarnation in 1987's Wall Street, he traded his Manhattan penthouse for a federal prison. In the sequel, Gekko is free. What will Gekko do with his second chance? That's the crux of the plot, and for Douglas, 65, who is getting his own fresh start as a husband, father, and son, life right now is all about second chances.
"My career was the most important thing in my life, followed by marriage and children," he confesses. "And it's completely reversed now. I never anticipated starting a family and the joy of raising kids at my age."
For Douglas, the shot at a fresh start as husband and father came after his 1995 split with his wife of ultimately 23 years, Diandra. He thought he'd settle into the life of a single guy; a permanent relationship "wasn't on the grid," he says. That all changed one day in 1998 as he sat in a darkened Hollywood screening room, watching a new film, The Mask of Zorro.
"I just sat forward," he recalls, "and said, ' Who is that?' "
"That" would have been 29-year-old Catherine Zeta-Jones, making her starring debut in the swashbuckler film. When they met at a film festival later that year, his ardor had not faded. As he often does, Douglas spoke precisely what was on his mind. "I want to father your children," he said.
That went over like a lead soufflé.
"I've heard a lot about you," she responded calmly. "It's nice to know it's all true. Good night." And she was gone.
"Oh," Douglas told himself, "I blew it."
He didn't give up. The next morning Zeta-Jones flew to Scotland's Isle of Mull to shoot Entrapment with Sean Connery; when she arrived she found a huge bouquet of roses. The note read: "I apologize if I stepped over the line."
"I was smitten with her, no doubt," Douglas says. The pair spent the following year seeing each other when they could meet in the same time zone. By the time they married in 2000, they had a three-month-old baby boy, Dylan, now nine (they also have a daughter, six-year-old Carys).
Early on, the couple came to terms with the 25-year age gap between them: "Catherine is an old soul," Douglas says. Still, there were complications. Douglas's future in-laws-David, a retired confectioner, and Patricia, both now 62—were three years younger than the groom. "I wasn't quite the son-in-law they'd envisioned," Douglas wryly notes. "I do like to wind up Catherine's father and call him Pops."
He has since learned much about partnership. Douglas credits two of his wife's strengths with making the marriage work: "Catherine has a great sense of humor and is not a demanding person," he observes. As a result he is more patient than he was in his first marriage: "I try to give everybody a little more breathing room."
Zeta-Jones says she has also learned from her husband. "One thing I love about Michael, and there are many, many things, is that he gets things done," she says. "He has educated me on how to conduct a busy life without being so self-centered that everything else goes by the bye."
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