A cursory glance over Michael Douglas’ resume, which spans an impressive four decades, will reveal more than a smattering of gold. With films like Romancing The Stone, Fatal Attraction, Wall Street and Basic Instinct under his belt, you begin to realise that the son of Kirk Douglas is a leading figure of Reagan/Bush sr. era cinema, just as his father was during the magic hour of Hollywood, and far more than his most famous line about ‘lunch’.
In the course of his professional life the media have fed on a reputation for extreme narcissism and an association with sleaze both on and off set, leaving his triumphs on the screen to fester under a blanket of controversy. Once cornered by Dennis Pennis, he was asked: “Is your penis like your bank account? When you withdraw it you lose interest?” Heck, Tony Curtis liked a taste of the action but it’s his movies he’s remembered for, not chasing tail. However, Curtis probably never demanded that he be allowed to show his cock on screen during the filming of Some Like It Hot, as Douglas allegedly did when making Basic Instinct…
If your boss ever told you “Lunch is for wimps” you now know they learnt to be an insufferable c*** by watching Douglas’ career defining performance as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street. Oliver Stone’s treatise on the immorality and excesses of capitalism is like peering into your own private vortex of 1980s finance culture, Douglas standing tall in a crisp shirt and braces still serving as the perfect emblem of corporate greed and dangerous ambition to this day.
Not many people realise that Basic Instinct was one of the most commercially successful films of the 1990s, defying low expectations following its critical mauling. Admittedly a ludicrous erotic thriller which, as many have pointed out, sports a central mystery that in real life could easily have been solved with DNA evidence, Basic Instinct remains an important film for trying to push boundaries and breath new life into the Hollywood ’sex’ film of the early ‘90s. In addition to Sharon Stone’s infamous interrogation scene Douglas puts in an admirably taut performance, exuding menace and twisted passion in heaps to great histrionic effect.
Thinking back on Falling Down you forget just how reprehensible and vacuous Michael Douglas’s frankly unsympathetic turn as a white collar worker gone AWOL is. It’s like the frustrated rant of a racist vigilante who’s convinced the whole world is going to collapse from the weight of immigration and whatever social issue has gotten their goat that week. That said, it does have that awesome scene where Michael Douglas demands his burger look like the burger on the menu, even though that would probably be like eating plastic. It’s the only political belief of his which is okay to empathise with, otherwise you are just a reactionary bigot.
One of the most psychologically wrought movies of the late ‘80s, Fatal Attraction provided Douglas with one of his best performances as a married man whose decision to have a one night stand comes back to haunt him in the form of a bunny-boiling psychopath. Whilst Glenn Close arguably steals the show Douglas is nonetheless excellent as the man trying to protect his family from the clutches of a woman-done-wrong.
The project which effectively revived Douglas’ career and gave the star a renewed sense of credibility (this in spite of the film being a commercial flop), Wonder Boys is an enjoyable stoner romp about a writer struggling to finish his second novel and failing at growing up. Includes a great scene involving Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, his lover who happens to be his boss’s wife, a freshly murdered dog and Marilyn Monroe’s coat.