Michael Douglas’ oldest son Cameron is set to tell his riveting personal story this month as part of the Katz JCC Festival of Arts, Books & Culture. SJ Magazine’s Marianne Aleardi will speak virtually with the famous son about how his life turned from privilege to prison. His unsparing story of drug dependency, crime and ultimately redemption shines a spotlight on one of Hollywood’s most famous families.

There weren’t any shelves in Cameron Douglas’ prison cell. When he got back to solitary confinement after the riot, all his books, letters and photos were waterlogged. The guards had flooded the unit, and all of his possessions, stacked carefully on the floor, were ruined.

“I came in and I felt like something was shattering inside me,” says Douglas. “It was a feeling I’d never felt before. I knew at that moment there were 2 roads left open to me. One, I don’t think I would have come back from.” 

The 41-year-old actor points to that moment, the aftermath of a prison riot in the middle of the nearly 8-year stretch he served for heroin possession and drug dealing, as the impetus for his transformation. 

By the time he was arrested in New York City in 2009, Douglas’ fall from grace had dominated Hollywood headlines. He was, after all, the crown prince of a family dynasty – the eldest son of Academy Award-winning actor Michael Douglas and grandson of Golden Age titan Kirk Douglas, who passed away in February at the age of 103. 

Cameron, Kirk and Michael Douglas

“As a young man I felt like I needed to stand out and prove myself or garner attention,” Douglas says. “Sometimes I did that in positive ways, and sometimes I did that in ways that were negative. With the men in my family, being successful and also being a ‘real man,’ whatever that means, was important. That was something I didn’t fully understand as a young man, and I was constantly trying to figure out. I was trying to answer these questions about myself, about what kind of man I was. I think that started with my grandfather. It was a mantle he carried as a result of who he was – his presence, his talent, his success. That trickled down to the rest of the men in the family, and we’re all competitive.” 

Douglas recalls a charmed childhood, with travel all over the globe, glittering parties at family homes in New York and California and evenings with his dad’s famous friends – among them Jack Nicholson and Danny DeVito. But as he grew into young adulthood, he struggled with the expectations and attention his name garnered. He fought with his father, sometimes physically, and descended into drug addiction.  

Douglas was arrested for cocaine possession in 1999 and 2007, and was in and out of court and rehab programs. 

Although he was experiencing success as both an actor and DJ, the drug took over his life once he began injecting it directly into his veins. When his frustrated relatives cut off all his funds, he began dealing large quantities of coke and other drugs across the country to support his habit. 

In the summer of 2009, he was arrested by the Drug Enforcement Administration with a half a pound of crystal meth. That arrest led to a 5-year prison sentence. Two years later, another 4 years were added to his sentence when he was caught with drugs in prison. By the time of his early release in 2016, Douglas had spent 7 years behind bars. He lays it out in unsparing detail in his memoir “Long Way Home,” which will be the subject of conversation with SJ Magazine’s Marianne Aleardi during the Katz JCC Festival of Arts, Books and Culture this month. 

“There were benefits to doing some serious prison time,” Douglas says. “I have a real appreciation for the finer things and simple things in life. I don’t know where I’d be right now if that hadn’t all happened. I would never sit here and tell you I think prison sentences are the answer for addiction – but what I can say is, thankfully, I did a lot of growing up in prison.”

After the prison riot that Douglas considers his turning point, he started writing his story. “I was hesitant to start the book when I did, because I wanted a better ending,” he says. “I think sometimes people zero in on the grim stuff, because it’s a little more scintillating or exciting. People seem drawn to the drama.”

And there’s plenty of that in his memoir. “I didn’t write my book to tell people not to do drugs or as a cautionary tale,” he says. “It is that – but it was really meant to be a couple of things. When I first started working on it, it was about sharing so maybe people could learn from those experiences. Maybe it might help people who have family members who are struggling. But it was also just about trying to turn chaos into something meaningful.” 

Since his release, Douglas has been busy rebuilding a career and starting a family. His daughter, Lua, was born in 2018, and in the last few years he’s signed onto some high-profile projects. 

Cameron Douglas, his partner Viviane Thibes and their toddler daughter Lua

“I thought I was going to get out of prison and be the hottest thing going, and that was not the case,” he says. “It was really hard for me to get representation. Nobody wanted to take a chance with me. That took a while and was a major hurdle to overcome. Auditions were extremely tough. It’s a lot of rejection. But it ended up being something that really helped me as an actor, because I reached a point where I was forced to ask myself if I truly believed in myself and my talent. 

“The reality is that until you’re making people money, they’re not going to buy into your talent, especially when you come with a lot of baggage. I really had to look at myself in the mirror and do some soul searching. Once I could really answer that honestly it was like a weight had been lifted. I believe in myself and I love what I’m doing, and I believe I have something to offer.”

Just before the pandemic hit, Douglas finished filming a feature film called “The Runner.” He expects to start filming his next feature project, along with Scott Eastwood and Rachel McAdams, at the beginning of next year. He’s also working on adapting the memoir into an ongoing series. 

“It’ll be a fictionalized version, loosely based on the book,” he says. “We’ve teamed up with a great production company, and we have a great writer and showrunner attached.” 

The next hurdle: finding the right actor to play him. “I’m going to find someone super cool and super good looking,” Douglas deadpans. “What else matters?”

Douglas’ relationship with his dad and the rest of the family is a major subject of his book. It’s taken time, he says, but things between him and his famous father are better than ever. 

“He was just over my house last night watching the game – our relationship is in a really good place,” says Douglas, who shares his father’s distinctive facial features. But it was a rough road. 

“A lot of trust was broken. My father really didn’t believe I was going to make it, and he started emotionally preparing himself for that outcome. So to do a 180 and allow himself to open his heart to me again, it took some time. My father isn’t the kind of person who can just jump back and forth. Through repetition and presence, and being reliable, we’re making our way to a good place.”

The title of Douglas’ book is apt, he says – a good description of the journey that took him from a life of privilege to a life in prison, then brought him back to Hollywood and his family. 

“It was really about digging deep and finding the person inside that I honestly wasn’t sure was there, the person that was able to lead a meaningful life,” he says. “My focus today is on being a good son, a good grandson, a good family member, hopefully a decent father. That’s what coming home – and taking the long way – means to me.” 


Cameron Douglas will be in conversation with SJ Magazine’s Marianne Aleardi on Nov. 17 at 8 pm as part of the Virtual Katz JCC Festival of Arts, Books and Culture. For more information, visit katzjcc.org/abcfest.


Cameron Douglas on the movie screen

“Mr. Nice Guy” 1997
His film debut is as Giancarlo’s Man in a Jackie Chan martial-arts action movie. 

 “It Runs in the Family” 2003
Starring with his father Michael Douglas and grandfather Kirk, he plays Asher Gromberg, a grandson in a New York dysfunctional family. 

 “National Lampoon’s Adam & Eve” 2005
He plays Adam, a frat brother who meets a girl saving her virginity for the right guy. 

“Loaded” 2008
He plays Rick in this action film about a wealthy club kid whose life spirals out of control. 

“The Perfect Beat” 2009
He plays DJ Mojo, forced to choose between his art and the woman he loves. 

 In 2009, Cameron Douglas began his 5-year prison sentence. He was released in 2016.

“Dead Layer” 2019
He plays Danny Engel, a visionary graffiti artist who gets caught up in a terrible crime. 

“The Runner” – filming now
He plays Detective Wall in a film about a troubled teen forced by the cops to go undercover to bring down a dangerous drug kingpin.

November 2020
Related Articles

Comments are closed.


Get SJ Mag in Your Inbox

Subscribe for the latest on South Jersey dining, weekend entertainment, the Shore and much more - sent directly to your inbox.

* indicates required
Email Format
WATCH NOW: Millennials looking for Mentors