The AFI salutes Michael Douglas!


How often does the audience at an awards show get to have a dream come true?

That’s just what happened at the 37th annual American Film Institute Life Achievement Award tribute honoring Michael Douglas on June11th, when Catherine Zeta-Jones did a show-stopping performance of the song “One” from “A Chorus Line.”

Douglas, who was noticeably moved and close to tears, blew his wife several kisses.

The awards event, one of the most glamorous in Hollywood, opened with a literal bang at the Sony Pictures Studios Stage 15 in Culver City. A movie montage of clips on a big screen ended with a scene of Douglas in the film “The Game,” where his character falls from a building and through a glass ceiling. When the clip was over, a stunt double fell to the stage to the sound of breaking glass and dropped behind a partition. Douglas suddenly rose up instead and brushed himself off, to much applause from the celebrity-packed audience.

As Douglas moved through the audience shaking hands, he not only waltzed happily with Annette Bening but with Eric McCormack as well.

Sony President and CEO Howard Stringer opened the night’s festivities by relating that Stage 15 was also home to the filming of “The Wizard of Oz” and “Night at the Opera.”

“Astaire danced here, Rocky boxed here and Tobey Maguire swung as Spider-man here,” he added.

Kirk Douglas, himself a recipient of the AFI award in 1991, followed Stringer onstage with some amusing comments about the unique father-son relationship he shared with Michael.

“Michael, when he was growing up, showed no interest in being an actor. He wanted to be a lawyer. That made me happy, because every Jewish father wants his son to be a lawyer,” he joked.

Douglas added that he had tried for years to get the film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” made and failed, while his son got it ready to start in a year.

A video clip of Karl Malden was shown. Malden, who starred with Douglas in the television series “The Streets of San Francisco,” said “I wish Michael could have been my son; I’m so proud of him!”

Matthew McConaughey took the stage to explain the effect that the film “Fatal Attraction” had on him when he was younger.

Not only did the film “scare the crap out of me,” but “I considered being a monk there for awhile!”

Kathleen Turner, Douglas’s co-star for three films (“Romancing the Stone,” “The Jewel of the Nile,” and “The War of the Roses”) had nothing but praise for him.

“What cannot be summed up is the sheer fun and excitement of working with Michael – whether kissing him or killing him!”

A video clip of Glenn Close also was shown, talking about her experiences filming with Douglas and revealing a clip of “Fatal Attraction.” Then it cut to Close saying “I’m sorry I can’t be there with you tonight – I have to get dinner on,” as she was holding a large white rabbit and grinning.

Tobey Maguire, who worked with Douglas in the “Wonder Boys,” said that he had first felt uneasy at how he might be treated by such an icon before the start of the film. It turned out that he needed not to have worried.

“He was just a normal guy who treated everyone with respect. Michael, you are one classy guy and I want to be like you,” he told Douglas.

To everyone’s surprise, Bob Dylan appeared and sang “Things Have Changed,” the Oscar-winning song he penned for “The Wonder Boys.”

Kiefer Sutherland then came onstage and related how he had felt a closeness to Douglas in regard to both their fathers being actors.

“Michael, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing you for almost 21 years now; you seemed always to be looking out for me, almost like an older brother,” he said.

Jack Nicholson appeared and said to Douglas “I’ve had so many of my high moments and so many of my fine moments with you.”

Martin Sheen spoke about Douglas’ work as a messenger for peace with the United Nations and also his charity involvements. Steve Swankay, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone, talked about Douglas sponsoring his education.

At the end, Douglas thanked everyone for their graciousness and added “This award is up there with my wedding and the births of my children.”

He also thanked his parents and Karl Malden, saying “I’ll be his adopted son anytime.”

Then Douglas addressed Howard Stringer and joked, “There’s nothing better than coming to Sony and being asked for a photo I.D.”

Other guests for the evening included Sharon Stone, Summer Redstone, Hugh Hefner, Karl Urban, Bai Ling, Christopher Lloyd, Jesse Metcalfe, Warren Beatty, Anne Archer, Genevieve Bujold, Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith, Oliver Stone, Jane Seymour, James Keach, Leonard Maltin and Benecio del Toro.

The AFI tribute to Douglas will air on TV Land on July 19.

– Lisa Carroll