Michael Douglas – Meeting the Man

When I was asked if I would be interested in taking a trip the NYC to photograph Michael Douglas for an upcoming ARTS cover I jumped at the opportunity. Douglas was being honored with the 12th Annual Monte Cristo Award from the Eugene O’Neill Theater, a place that he honed his craft growing up in Connecticut.

I have been a fan of his from his early work in “The Streets of San Francisco” with Karl Malden. Really enjoyed his role in Wall Street, Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct. Besides my editor Sherry Peters said “Who knows, maybe Catherine will be there!” Yes indeed, this could be very fun.

The shoot was to take place at the couples Central Park West apartment. When I arrived I was disappointed to see the building shrouded in scaffolding and netting due to repairs on the exterior but the view from their living space was still breathtaking on this early Spring afternoon.

Douglas was running a little behind but his assistant was there to greet me as reporter Frank Rizzo had arrived a few minutes earlier. The spare time allowed me to check the place out for a suitable location for a portrait and photos during the interview.

A fine Steinway & Sons piano sat in one corner with little pieces of tape on the keys to help Douglas and daughter Carys learn the notes.

As I walked around the spacious quarters I heard a clicking sound that only one thing I know of makes on hard wood floor. I was standing near the entry when in walks Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Stunning is all I can say. She greet me and welcomed Frank and I to her home. The window light in the apartment is gorgeous and so is she. I felt odd wanting sooo badly to take a photo but I wasn’t there to photograph her. I didn’t want to act like some star struck paparazzi but I guess in some ways that is what I ended up being as I snuck this shot as she and her assistant were leaving for an appointment. Oh well, maybe next time I’ll be asked to take her portrait…


When Michael arrive I asked him to sit on the couch facing the windows in the sitting area as he talked about his career with Frank. The background setting was a little busy but the photographs were telling a part of his life that added to the story.

On August 16, 2010, it was announced that Douglas was suffering from throat cancer and would undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatment. The cancer and treatment seems to have taken a toll on him and at 67 he’s beginning to look a lot like his father Kirk.

He lost over 30 pounds during treatment and was tired a lot but today he seemed to be doing better and gaining weight back.

When he looked back at a portrait of him taken during filming of “The China Syndrome”, which he both produced and starred in, a glint of his past showed in his expression.

As the interview wound down I was hoping for a chance to get him alone for just a couple of minutes to get a simple portrait, one with little distraction in the background but he politely declined as he was growing tired. “Besides, you must taken some good ones during the interview, no?” Yes, but as a photographer I always hope to walk away with that one image that just says it all. That’s difficult to do when you are shooting during an interview as facial expressions can be fickle while people talk, reflect, etc…so I wasn’t going to push it with him.

As we were leaving I kept trying to angle him into the doorway that had a couple of richly stained panels and a clean background as the window light fell off. I think he knew what I was trying to do so it was kind of a cat and mouse thing. He’d give me a glance every once in a while as he talked to Frank and let me get something close to what I was hoping for.

I guess between the last two images I like this one the best for it’s simplicity. Now if I could have only gotten him to look my way, if only for a moment…

Pro Tip: Shooting actors and entertainers can be a very satisfying or frustrating depending on their time, personality, assistants or the setting available. Working with reporters on these assignments can be just as trying but nothing is predictable so take a deep breath and have fun.

Posted in Arts and Entertainment, Features, John Woike, Lighting, Portraits. RSS 2.0 feed.
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