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Hollywood’s Wall St. Icon Michael Douglas

2010 will go down as one of the most remarkable years of legendary actor Michael Douglas’ life, and in more ways than one. He proves to still be a power player on Wall Street, reprising his 1987 Oscar-winning role as greedy corporate raider Gordon Gekko in the contemporary sequel, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, with co-stars Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan, and Josh Brolin. The reactions to the movie have been positive and the number of fans investing in it has been great—Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps opened as the No. 1 weekend movie earning $19 million in September.

He possesses a certain swagger on the big screen, one that has often casted him as a sleazy something—whether it’s a corrupt businessman, womanizer, or bad father.

A corrupt businessman was not the only character Douglas portrayed on the big screen this year. In the cinematic surprise of the year, Solitary Man, he stars as the charming yet disgraced car salesman and family man Ben Kalmen.

Yet, this year couldn’t just be punctuated by the two dynamic roles adding to Douglas’ library of oily characters. One of the most celebrated actors in Hollywood shocked the nation when he revealed on the Late Show with David Letterman in late August that he has stage 4 throat cancer.

He’s embarked on a grueling eight weeks of radiation and chemotherapy, so a simple “How are you?” question is a “loaded one,” Douglas says, but rather cheerfully. With the cancer localized above the neck, doctors had told Douglas he has an 80 percent chance of full recovery. And at the time of our Haute Living interview, Douglas is in his 10th week of recovery and “everything is going well, and I am very hopeful and optimistic,” he says. His fighting spirit is a testament that his real-life character is as strong or even stronger than the ones he’s portrayed in the movies for 40-plus years.

After the last few years in lukewarm comedy roles (Ghost of Girlfriends Past, You, Me and Dupree, The In-Laws) and the typical action thrillers (Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, The Sentinel), Douglas validates he is as relevant as ever with Gordon Gekko part two, the fictional crooked insider trader who grown men and stockbrokers in three-piece, pinstriped suits have idolized for 23 years. And the Ben Kalmen character of Solitary Man is another loathsomely charming character that only the great actor can perfect.

“I’m 66 years old; the reality is that at this age, you produce and work on your own projects, but there are not many interesting things that come to you,” Douglas says. “So for me, I was very pleased when Steven Soderbergh first sent Solitary Man, which Brian Koppelman wrote, and it was beautifully written. There was no question about it. I said, ‘Let’s do this.’” Douglas was also pleased that director Oliver Stone could deliver a strong sequel to the critically acclaimed 1987 hit of Wall Street crookedness.

“You cherish that,” Douglas says. “You cherish those times when you get great material. And if just so happens that (the movies) come out in the same year, you only wish that your health will allow you to enjoy the experience as much as you did acting in them.”

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New York February / March 2014
New York February / March 2014