TV Guide: Why did you do the documentary?
Michael Douglas: A couple of reasons. Initially we thought we were just going to talk about how [the entertainment] business has changed. Then we got into discussions about how one man is a rags-to-riches immigrant Russian Jew born two years after his father (who cannot read or write) came here. That's an incredible story. And then there is the story of the second or third generation that does not have that arc, and how do you identify yourself when you have a silver spoon in your mouth? Lee Grant — who was blacklisted in her own right and has known Dad since they did The Champion — and I have become friends over the years. We felt we could trust her.
Kirk Douglas: My grandchildren know Michael on the screen, they know their grandpa on the screen, but with this they'll see Michael and I just talking and arguing, being what we are.
TV Guide: Your biggest argument, or point of contention, was over the making of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. (Starring Jack Nicholson, the best picture winner earned then 28-year-old Michael an Academy Award as producer.)
Kirk: Cuckoo's Nest was a wonderful book by Ken Kesey. I bought the rights in 1959 — I thought I would make a movie. I met a wonderful director, Milos Forman, and said, "I'm going to send you a book." He never got it. In the meantime, I had it transcribed into a play. I was on Broadway for six months in 1960 doing it without taking any money; the critics did not fall overboard for it. I then tried for almost 10 years to make it into a movie.
Michael: Now let me tell you my part: I'm in college, 1965, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is required reading. The book was fantastic; I loved it. [After college, when] Dad decided to sell the project, I said, "Let me run with it, to get your money back, I will produce it so you can play the part." He said OK. When I finally got it together, the only bone of contention was who would play Randle Patrick McMurphy, one of the great parts of a lifetime. Jack Nicholson won an Academy Award for it. It was Dad's picture and Dad's part, but times had changed.
TV Guide: In the documentary it seems as if there are still hurt feelings.
Michael: Well, you are bringing it up now — that's not going to help any.
Michael: We talked about it and made peace about it a long time ago. But he still likes to wind me up.
Kirk: I had great admiration that Michael was about to do something that I couldn't do. And even when I asked, "Who is the director?" he said, "You wouldn't know him, he is an unknown director from Prague — Milos Forman." He had no idea that I had approached [Forman]. It is a very interesting story.
TV Guide: Another issue that you address in the documentary is infidelity. Did you plan on talking about it, or did it just happen?
Michael: Infidelity is part of life, part of our pain. It has caused people problems, it is a reality. The beauty [for both of us] is that neither of us was worried about running for elective office.
Michael: It was something for us to share with our family and future generations. Infidelity is not an issue that runs only in the Douglas family. Let's make that clear. Every family has had to deal with it.
TV Guide: I just don't think we are used to seeing stars talk about such frailties.
Kirk: The bottom line is that I get along very well with his mother. Anne [Kirk's second wife] and Diana [Michael's mother] are friends. They have lunch together. I adored Michael's stepfather; he did such a wonderful job with the kids.
TVG: Michael, you also talk about going to a rehab clinic and, because people couldn't deal with it, they made up a lie about you.
Michael: I went to rehab soon after my stepfather had died, my surrogate father. It was right after Basic Instinct. So all I am saying in the documentary is that it was much easier and flip for some English tabloid editor, rather than do another story about someone going to rehab [for alcohol abuse], to do this thing about "sex addiction." It was a label put on me by the British tabloids that became a so-called fact and stuck with me for years. It certainly influenced... how people saw me.
Kirk: People like to believe what they like to believe.
Michael: The biggest laugh [at the screening] came when I am talking about sex addiction and they cut to you, Dad, and you say, "What's wrong with sex addiction?"
TVG: Is there one movie that is your favorite?
Kirk: Lonely Are the Brave — a little picture, that is my favorite.
Michael: Black Rain or Falling Down — they were different.
TVG: What about your father makes you most proud?
Michael: The reason I wanted to take part in this [documentary] is that I am most proud of my father not for getting out of the ashes of poverty, not for being New England's wrestling champion, not for laying some of the most beautiful women in the world, not for having a great, great acting career, fantastic producing career, breaking the black list or being the author of 10 novels, but because he has continued to grow. [To Kirk] You are an inspiration. You have proven that retirement does not mean you have to wither; it means you choose other areas of interest, you continue to grow and that is [a lesson] I will take and continue to remember.
TVG: And Kirk, what do you feel proud of in Michael?
Kirk: Michael has had a much tougher time than I did. He worked for everything. I admire that Michael has played his part in the history of the cinema. His three sex films [Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, Disclosure] are masterpieces; China Syndrome prophesized Three Mile Island. Wall Street prophesized all the corruption we have right now. So he is not a dumb kid.
Michael: But a bad dancing partner.