"When your parents are divorced, you don't know anything else, do you?"
Kirk Douglas was a source of inspiration to many; the movie icon was one of the industry's leading actors in the 1950s. His son Michael Douglas—whom he shares with his first wife Diana—also inherited the ability to act.
But, eight years after Kirk married Diana, the two called it off, citing a turbulent relationship as the reason. Kirk then went on to marry Anne Buydens. Their relationship lasted several decades, but he became distant from his son, Michael.
Michael's childhood was filled with both pleasant and unpleasant memories. Seeing his parents get divorced was a turning point in his life.
"My own parents divorced when I was six. I was raised with my brother Joel by our mother on the east coast, visiting my father in Los Angeles during holidays. When your parents are divorced, you don't know anything else, do you?" the actor once told The Guardian.
Also, the fact that there was immense pressure on the man to be like his father didn't bode too well with him. Though he admired his father for his talents, he later said that his dad missed out on a lot of time with his family and young sons due to his busy schedule.
All these led to a strained relationship for years between Kirk and his son.
After Diana's divorce from Kirk, she married Bill Darrid, and he immediately clicked with his wife's kids. For Michael, his stepfather was the man he recognized as a dad. In fact, Michael once claimed that he refused to call Kirk "dad" and instead chose to shower his stepfather with love and affection.
Michael also claimed Kirk only visited him and his brother Joel out of guilt following his separation from their mother, Diana.
The amicable relationship between Fatal Attraction star and his father went south after Michael convinced Kirk to sell him the rights to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
When the rights were sold, Kirk was disappointed because Michael cast Jack Nicholson, a much younger star, instead of him. Things turned even bitter when the movie won several accolades.
The rift between them was caused when Kirk said he would not make it to his son's wedding in the year 2000 with Catherine Zeta-Jones, since he didn't want to be in the same room as his ex-wife.
His stepfather was his shoulder to lean on, through it all.
"Bill was an extraordinary guy, the most important male influence through my teenage years. To his credit, Kirk always referred to him as my surrogate father," Michael said about his relationship with Darrid, per The Guardian.
He further added, "Step-parents often get bad press. But it isn't always true. This was a man who took on the responsibility of raising another man's children, and that included answering questions about the birds and the bees."
However, later on, Michael and Kirk began to rebuild their bond. When the Spartacus star suffered a stroke in 1996, his son supported him. Eventually, the two of them managed to mend things, and Michael was with his dad during his final moments.
After Kirk's death, the younger Douglas shared a touching tribute to the Hollywood icon, showing how close they had become over the years. In his heartfelt message, the actor wrote, "To the world, he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in setting a standard for all of us to aspire to. But to me and my brothers Joel and Peter, he was simply Dad."
Cover Image Source: Getty Images | Photo by Michael Buckner