According to the press release announcing Michael Douglas as the recipient of the 2011 Santa Barbara International Film Festival‘s Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence, dad was duly impressed when he first checked out Douglas’ acting work in the 1960s. At the time, the actor’s firstborn son was a drama student at UC Santa Barbara:
“To tell the truth, I wanted Michael to be a lawyer,” Douglas said. “I secretly hoped he would be bad so I could tell him to forget it. He wasn’t.”
However, previously published Michael bios suggest Kirk was actually less than enamored by the junior year performance of As You Like It. There is even, apparently, an August 1998 US Weekly interview in which Kirk deemed his son’s Shakespearean efforts as “terrible.” (Due to a malfunctioning USmagazine.com website, we were unable to confirm this quote first-hand.)
Then again, can you imagine the stage fright the son of a Hollywood legend might experience knowing that dad was sitting in the college auditorium? FishbowlLA gives Douglas Sr. the benefit of the doubt on this one and looks forward (either way) to a memorable acceptance speech by Douglas Jr. on October 13.
Update – 10/14/11: The above muddy trail was clarified during the October 13 awards presentation. Turns out dad had ulterior motives for his scathing review and abandoned his covert strategy after watching a second UCSB production featuring Michael. Per the press release:
It was rather emotional and very touching when Kirk Douglas proudly presented the award to his very own son. He admitted that when Michael performed in his first play, Kirk told him he was awful… Just so he would become a lawyer instead. But when he saw him in the second play he’d ever done, he couldn’t help but see just how talented he was.
After accepting the award named for his father, Michael acknowledged that he was the sixth recipient of the Kirk Douglas Award for Excellence in Film [and thus] noting the obvious lack of nepotism. He also reminisced about going to UCSB and living in Santa Barbara, and also expressed his pleasure seeing how the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has grown. Like the community of Santa Barbara itself, this award is something that is very dear to his heart.