What happens when you win your first Emmy? If you’re Michael Douglas, you open your acceptance speech with a gay joke and then turn it into a platform for your personal life.
Talk about making use of your two minutes in the spotlight. (Technically it was 1:55, but who’s counting?)
On Sunday, the 69-year-old thespian gladly accepted the trophy for Outstanding Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, for his portrayal of Liberace in “Behind the Candelabra.” After thanking his co-star Matt Damon, HBO and the creative team behind the project, Michael went on to thank his “wife Catherine for her support.” He spent the last seconds of his monologue on his two kids with actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, and then gave “a shout out” to his eldest (and incarcerated) son, Cameron — hoping “they’ll allow me to see him soon.”
It was an appearance that could have easily fed the rumor mill. For years, Michael was shorthand for Hollywood gossip. The actor had married a much younger woman, he shared in his memoir that he had battled alcoholism and chronicled his promiscuous past, and he even disclosed that his throat cancer was potentially caused by HPV from oral sex. Recently, Michael made headlines for his rocky relationship with Catherine, who had been diagnosed with bipolar II disorder.
Plenty of celebrities would shy away from facing the media in the midst of such painful personal problems, but here at the Emmys, Michael was determined to handle things head on.
For one, the leading man wasn’t scared to talk about his 13-year marriage to Catherine. So what if the two Oscar winners had been separated since June? By referring to Catherine in his speech as his wife, Michael subtly hinted to the world that his marriage to the 44-year-old beauty was far from over.
Backstage, Michael got the opportunity to elaborate on his son’s situation. The Hollywood pro explained to reporters that he questioned the prison system after being told he couldn’t visit Cameron, who has been behind bars since 2010 for a 2009 drug bust. The day after the Emmys, a handful of critics and experts on prison reform came out to give their thoughts in the news, about whether or not they believed Michael’s son was getting harsher than usual treatment.
One such opinion — though some may have disagreed — came from Anthony Papa, a spokesman for the Drug Policy Alliance, who told the New York Daily News, “They threw the book at him. They wanted to make an example of him and it’s totally over the top,” The DPA penned a brief in support of Cameron when he unsuccessfully appealed the extra sentence he received for drug possession.
By using his own life as an example, Michael encouraged the media this week to have an open discussion about the issues of the day — the importance of not giving up in a marriage, and to take a closer look at the rules surrounding incarceration in America.
In the end, it wasn’t Michael’s Emmy that garnered all the attention; it was his candor and willingness to be viewed as a normal, flawed human being.
Suddenly, Michael wasn’t gossip anymore. He was a man about second chances.