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Michael Douglas: “I discovered and learned to enjoy wine in France”

There’s no denying that at 79, Michael Douglas could be enjoying a well-deserved retirement, relaxing on the white sand beaches beneath the coconut trees or sipping rosé after a game of golf in the Bahamas. Given his successful career and countless box office hits, nobody would have held it against him. But that’s not who the prolific and tireless offspring of Kirk – aka Spartacus – is. More active than ever, he should soon feature in a biopic on Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. In the meantime, let’s raise a toast to this lover of fine fare and most Francophile of stars!

In ‘Disclosure’, filmed in 1994, you had a scene with Demi Moore involving a very unusual bottle of wine…

Yes, it was a bottle of 1991 Napa Valley Pahlmeyer Chardonnay, a very difficult wine to find. In his book, Michael Crichton referred to a wine that was very hard to come by, but without actually mentioning its name. The script writer, Paul Attanasio, had read an article that mentioned a very sought-after wine, but he couldn’t find it. Ultimately, it was Demi Moore who managed to get hold of a magnum of 1991 Pahlmeyer Chardonnay. She gave the magnum to the producer Barry Levinson. The scene was shot and the wine became a Hollywood star and gained worldwide recognition for the winery, which chose not to increase production, though, making it even more rare. As an aside, Barry took the magnum and didn’t share it with the crew! (laughs)

 

 

Is it true that during shooting of ’20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’, your dad, the late Kirk Douglas who played a sailor, drank real rum?

It was the first time I ever saw someone drunk play a guitar with a turtle shell! (laughs) My father played a guy who liked to drink. He was very convincing! But it was water! One day, I asked him what he drank on the set of ‘Vikings’ and he swore it was grape juice. You know what? I had my doubts. As you know, Kirk was a real Francophile. In fact, his knowledge of French wines was like his career – phenomenal!

 

In 2010, a biopsy revealed you had tongue cancer. For the lover of fine fare that you are, wasn’t that a real blow?

After the diagnosis, I underwent an intensive course of chemotherapy and radiotherapy for two months. The radiation burnt the inside of my mouth, so much so that it became almost impossible for me to eat. When I would drink Tempranillo, it felt like I was drinking something horrible. I couldn’t taste or smell the cherry aromas, the ripe berries or the fruitiness of this iconic Rioja wine that I love so much. Since then I have regained my sense of taste.

 

Michael Douglas with his wife Catherine Zeta-Jones.

 

Are you a fan of French wines?

Of course! I discovered and learned to enjoy wine in France. That was way before I started going to the Cannes film festival. As a young student, I decided to treat myself to a little hitch-hiking trip around Europe. We were due to join Sam Spiegel, a friend of my father’s who owned a yacht in Saint-Tropez! On board, Sam served me a nicely chilled rosé. It was a revelation! I also used a good bottle of rosé to seduce the woman who would become my wife and the mother of my children at the Deauville film festival! When I found out that Catherine (Zeta-Jones) was on the verge of leaving for Scotland to shoot ‘Entrapment’, I made arrangements so that she received an enormous bouquet of roses and a bottle of… rosé!

 

As the person who played trader Gordon Gekko in ‘Wall Street’, what would you recommend we invest in?

I would imagine it’s easier to invest in gold than it is in wine! Well of course, because you’re not tempted to drink your capital! (laughs) But when I see the price tags of some prestige labels, I wonder if it’s perhaps a better idea to cellar some fine wines rather than store gold ingots in a safe!

 

Michael Douglas with Frank Rousseau.