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Tears and kisses from Michael Douglas at AFI tribute

June 13, 2009|Susan King

Michael Douglas certainly knew how to make an entrance Thursday evening when he received the 37th annual American Film Institute Life Achievement Award at an event held on Sony Pictures Studios Stage 15 in Culver City.

A clip montage playing on a large screen concluded with the climatic dinner-entrance scene from Douglas' 1997 film "The Game," in which his character falls from atop a building and crashes through a glass ceiling. As it ended, a stunt double fell through the "ceiling" above the soundstage and landed behind a partition.

A few seconds later, the 64-year-old Douglas' head popped up. As the star-studded crowd roared with laughter, Douglas brushed himself off and walked through the crowd on his way to the dais where his father, Kirk Douglas, the recipient of the AFI honor in 1991, his mother, actress Diana Dill, and his wife, Oscar-winner Catherine Zeta-Jones, were sitting.

Zeta-Jones opened the show with a dazzling performance of the song "One" from "A Chorus Line" -- Douglas starred in the ill-fated 1985 film version of the classic musical. As Zeta-Jones sang "one singular sensation" to her husband, tears filled Michael Douglas' eyes. As the number ended, he wiped his eyes with his napkin and blew his wife air kisses.

Kirk Douglas, 92, told the crowd, "I'm a little bit confused; I'm too young to have a son getting a lifetime achievement award. I'm so proud of my son Michael. I don't tell him that much often."

The evening with filled with clips from Douglas' long career in television and film, including his big break as a young detective on the TV series "The Streets of San Francisco" (in a taped interview, series star, Karl Malden, said, "I wish that Michael had been my son") as well as scenes from such films as "Romancing the Stone," "The China Syndrome," "Fatal Attraction," "Basic Instinct," "The American President," "Wonder Boys" and "Wall Street," the last of which won him the lead actor Oscar.

Former leading ladies Glenn Close, Sharon Stone, Kathleen Turner and Annette Bening sung his praises. Bob Dylan even made a surprise appearance to sing "Things Have Changed," the Oscar-winning song he wrote for "Wonder Boys."

Martin Sheen discussed Douglas' humanitarian work as a messenger for peace for the United Nations and as a charity fundraiser. When Steve Swankay, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone, got up to talk about Douglas sponsoring his education, the teary-eyed actor left the dais and went into the audience to embrace the young man.

Douglas credited his success on the "great genes" of his parents. "I want to thank you both and I love you both," he said.

The AFI salute to Douglas will air on TV Land on July 19.

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susan.king@latimes.com

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