Actor Michael Douglas won an Academy Award as a ruthless man with a nose for stock-market gold in "Wall Street." Now he's a lovable kook sniffing after mythical Spanish treasure in "King of California," a shaggy-dog tale that marks a return to independent filmmaking for the star of such studio hits as "Fatal Attraction" and "Basic Instinct."
Also a best-picture Oscar winner for producing 1975's indie sensation "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," Douglas still jumps into roles that really grab him but finds the urge to work constantly has diminished since his 2000 marriage to Catherine Zeta-Jones, with whom he has a young son and daughter.
"It's funny how your priorities change, and mine definitely have since getting married and starting the family," Douglas, 63, said in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival, where "King of California" played before its theatrical debut. Now playing in limited release, the film is gradually rolling out nationwide.
"Basically, for the last eight years, I haven't done a lot," Douglas said. "It takes a lot to drag me out of the house."
Though a steady hitmaker in the 1980s and '90s, Douglas has delivered box-office duds lately, among them the Secret Service thriller "The Sentinel," the action comedy "The In-Laws" and the domestic drama "It Runs in the Family," which co-starred his parents, Kirk and Diana Douglas, and his grown son, Cameron.
Douglas said he generally has outgrown the pressure to keep producing hits, saying the lower-budgeted indie world is a better option for interesting roles than gigantic studio productions that live or die by their opening weekends.
"It is if you've been lucky enough to have the career I've had and have invested wisely," Douglas said. "But I don't feel so good for a lot of people who just are starting out now and what they face. The alternatives aren't good."
In "King of California," Douglas got a chance to do something he's rarely done on screen: Act like a kook. With a bushy beard and a wildly infectious glint in his eye, Douglas plays jazz bass player Charlie, a man with a history of mental problems who has just gotten out of a psychiatric hospital.