Michael Douglas’ new role: taking on anti-Semitism

Michael Douglas, best known for his career as an actor, has recently spoken out against anti-Semitism.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Michael Douglas is best known as an enduring and prolific movie star, one who’s given such memorable film performances as a corporate raider in “Wall Street,” an unhinged everyman in “Falling Down” and as the flamboyant entertainer Liberace in HBO’s “Behind the Candelabra.”

In recent days, however, he’s found himself in the spotlight for a different role: as a voice against anti-Semitism.

The son of a Jewish father (Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch) and a gentile mother (Diana Dill), Douglas was not raised in the faith but reconnected with it later in life through his son, Dylan.


Last week, Douglas penned an op-ed piece for The Times inspired by his son’s first experience with anti-Semitism, which he said occurred while on a family vacation in southern Europe. In the piece he called for tolerant people the world over to face the scourge of anti-Semitism, which he likened to a disease.

“If we confront anti-Semitism whenever we see it, if we combat it individually and as a society, and use whatever platform we have to denounce it, we can stop the spread of this madness,” Douglas wrote.

Douglas’ op-ed, which was widely circulated online, came on the heels of his being named the recipient of this year’s Genesis Prize, a $1-million honor from a group founded by Russian billionaires seeking to strengthen Jewish culture. It was published just days before Tuesday’s Israeli elections that will determine whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will stay in office.

It remains to be seen whether and how Douglas, who as a U.N. messenger of peace has also lobbied for human rights and anti-nuclear proliferation, will continue to use his celebrity as a platform to advocate for change. Celebrities weighing in on issues revolving around religion and politics — particularly involving the Middle East — often stir great interest, and sometimes controversy.

In the meantime, the 70-year-old actor shows few signs of slowing down screen output, with upcoming films including the Jean-Baptiste Leonetti thriller “Beyond the Reach,” the Michael Apted spy flick “Unlocked” and the Marvel superhero movie “Ant-Man.”

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