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| Michael Douglas wants to know how long we have. It's not that he's rushing off to play golf, as he does on many afternoons, or to collect his two younger kids — son Dylan, 15, and daughter Carys, 12 — from school. Douglas is talking about time in the larger, cosmic sense of the word. "I mean, you're a fool if you don't get a little more conscious at my age of how you want to spend your days," he says, gazing at the Manhattan skyline from a downtown loft. Pondering the notion, he mentions that his father, Kirk, will become a centenarian in December. To get his head around that stupendous feat, the offspring of the cleft-chinned legend calls upon the great and powerful oracle of our age. "Hey, Siri," Douglas purrs into his iPhone, the Gordon Gekko voice still limousine smooth. "How many people in the world are 100 years and older?"
Douglas flashes that magnetic grin as Siri thinks on it. At 71, the Academy Award–winning actor and producer, dressed in a tailored navy suit that sets off his ice-blue eyes and luminous silver mane, looks fantastic. As Paul Rudd, Douglas' co-star from last summer's superhero blockbuster Ant-Man, jokes, "Michael is still competing with Jeff Bridges for best hair in Hollywood."
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But success today is greater than the sum of movie parts for Douglas. "Show business is not the most important thing in the world," he says. A second chance at fatherhood, another shot at his marriage, freedom from cancer, newfound spirituality — just savoring the Katz's Deli pastrami on rye in front of him: This is where he finds meaning. What gives?
"It's called mortality," he says with a laugh.
He is also still prodigiously productive. After more than 50 films — among them Fatal Attraction, Wall Street,The American President and Wonder Boys — Douglas is turning out some of his boldest work, most notably in HBO's Behind the Candelabra, winning an Emmy in 2013 for portraying Liberace in full flower. Douglas' latest is the upcoming thriller Unlocked, in which he once again plays a morally ambiguous intimidator with enough devilish charm to win you over.
Upon the occasion of receiving AARP's 2015 Movies for Grownups Career Achievement Award in February, Douglas is reflecting on a life with as many rises and falls as the streets of San Francisco, where he first proved himself on the popular TV series of the same name. The ride recently included a 2013 separation from his wife, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, while managing her struggle with bipolar disorder.
"It took work on both our parts," Douglas says of saving the marriage. "I don't think there's much chance of fixing a relationship if one of you is already out the door." Notes Zeta-Jones, "I think we're both mellower and wiser. That comes naturally with time. We count our blessings."
Additionally, Douglas' son Cameron, 37, the only child from the actor's 23-year first marriage, to Diandra Luker, remains in a New York prison for a 2010 drug conviction. He is scheduled for release in 2017. "I see him twice a month now because he's incarcerated closer to our home," the actor says with matter-of-fact resignation. "He's a drug addict, but he's done more than his fair share of time for it."
Douglas also battled stage 4 tongue cancer, now in remission. "It's been five years, and I feel really good," he says, holding his hands as if in prayer, "but you have a new appreciation. I'm more motivated, more responsible. My younger kids could be my grandchildren. I want to be here a while."