Michael Douglas Discusses New Role as Benjamin Franklin While on UCSB Campus

Michael Douglas portraying Benjamin Franklin in "Franklin" on AppleTV+ (courtesy)

In an interview with CBS Sunday Morning, award-winning actor Michael Douglas delves into his latest role as Benjamin Franklin and shares insights into his own career.

Douglas, a former student at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), took a trip down memory lane, reminiscing about his time on campus and how he stumbled into the world of theater.

Douglas admits that when he was called to the counselor’s office during his third year of college, declaring a major became a challenging decision. However, with a familial background in the performing arts – his mother being actress Diana Douglas and his father being the legendary Kirk Douglas – he reluctantly decided to embark on a theater journey, despite not having an overwhelming passion for the craft initially.

But Douglas’s dedication paid off. From early nerves that plagued him with stage fright and made him reach for a wastebasket offstage, he eventually evolved into a Hollywood force to be reckoned with. With an Oscar under his belt for producing “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” (1975) and another for his memorable performance in “Wall Street” (1987), Douglas has displayed a unique ability to choose projects that reflect the zeitgeist.

From tackling a thriller like “The China Syndrome” (1979), just days before the Three Mile Island disaster unfolded, to embracing the role of Benjamin Franklin in the upcoming streaming series “Franklin,” Douglas has consistently pushed boundaries throughout his career. In “Franklin,” set during the Revolutionary War, Douglas portrays the American Founding Father during his time in Paris, seeking support from the French in their fight against the British.

Despite the historical setting, Douglas believes the series remains highly relevant today. He emphasizes how it serves as a reminder of the fragility of democracy, particularly when one considers the current state of affairs in the United States. Drawing inspiration from Franklin’s diplomatic approach and long period in Paris, Douglas highlights the challenges faced by the Founding Father as he sought to secure French assistance.

Douglas’s portrayal showcases Franklin’s pivotal role as America’s first diplomat and the immense impact his efforts had on the survival of the American Republic. Leaving France at the age of 79, the same age as Douglas is now, Franklin’s later years serve as a source of inspiration for the actor.

Reflecting on his own life, Douglas acknowledges the joy he has found in his lengthy, successful marriage to actress Catherine Zeta-Jones. The couple, who met in 1998 and have been together for nearly 25 years, share two children. Douglas’s legacy extends beyond his family, with his film career and philanthropic endeavors, including the Douglas Family Preserve in Santa Barbara, leaving a lasting impact.

As Michael Douglas continues to make his mark both on and off the screen, his newest project offers viewers a chance to witness the extraordinary life and legacy of Benjamin Franklin. The series “Franklin” premiered on Apple TV+ on April 12, and promises a captivating exploration of a critical chapter in American history.


Written by JaneTV

Jane is a longtime Santa Barbara resident who enjoys watching a variety of movies and television

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  1. I certainly remember Michael as an undergraduate in Dramatic Arts. He is four years younger than me. We would hang out in the then-relatively-new UCEN. Michael, wearing his olive-drab war surplus jacket, was my bridge partner! He did a lot better than his three older brothers. The interview mentions him agonizing over whether to go into drama, but I recall him being committed to his craft. He has certainly done well. Congratulations on the _Franklin_ series!

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