Michael Douglas

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Michael Douglas knew that history was just going to repeat itself if he didn't own his role in what happened.

The Oscar winner took a lot of heat for being an absentee dad when his eldest son, Cameron Douglas (whose mom is Douglas' ex-wife Diandra), was sentenced in 2010 to five years in prison for drug-related offenses—and then sentenced to four and a half more years for possessing drugs in prison.

And the elder Douglas admitted then that he hadn't put his family first when he was a young father and becoming a full-fledged movie star with the likes of Fatal Attraction and Wall Street.

"I've taken blame about being a bad father—if being a bad father is working your butt off trying to create a career at one time," the actor, who's also father to son Dylan and daughter Carys with Catherine Zeta-Jones, said on Today in May 2010 after Cameron was first sentenced. "I've also confessed the fact that I was in rehab 20 years ago. So we had that issue, and as far as his mother was concerned, she was a very young mother when she had Cameron, and her skills were limited to such an extent. The other part, of course, is genes. I lost a brother with an overdose four years ago. I have another brother who has been on the program for years.

"My ex-wife's family has alcoholism running in it, so you have that part, and then you finally end up with who you choose to hang out with. In Cameron's position, he took a lot of lowlifes and he was a very attractive target to hang out with, and I don't think that helped, either...I'm willing to take the hit."

The actor and filmmaker was a frequent presence in court to support Cameron and has advocated for his son by speaking out about the injustices he sees in the legal system when it comes to dealing with those suffering from addiction. But since those dark days he's become even more self-aware about how he started out mirroring his relationship with his own father, Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas, and opened up about how he's tried to embrace the second chance he was given at parenting with his younger kids.

Cameron Douglas, Michael Douglas

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"When I had Cameron I was early in my career and as opposed to most jobs, making movies takes you all around the world, so you were absentee in that sense," he admitted in 2010. "You were away sometimes working hard. We chose for a large part of our marriage not to be living in Los Angeles but be living outside, so you had to travel...my priorities have completely changed. My marriage and my families come certainly before my career."

Fighting cancer and watching his second marriage almost unravel certainly helped contribute to his realization that there was no time like the present to make a change.

But as is almost always the way, he didn't realize at first that he was perpetuating a patrilineal pattern in more ways than one.

"My priorities were very similar [to my father's]," Douglas told Vanity Fair in 2010. "Career first."

"He was guilt-ridden because his father had abandoned and ignored him," Douglas also recalled to Men's Journal about his screen-legend dad, who was separated from Michael's mom by the time he was 6. "That was the one thing that he wasn't going to do, and now he was separated from us." He added, "[Kirk] was a rager early on  He was overworked. He was doing five-plus pictures a year. I just sort of stayed out of his way, but he did the best he could."

After suffering a stroke in 1996, Kirk Douglas later reflected in his memoir Let's Face It that he took the opportunity to take "an audit of my life." That included becoming closer than ever before with his famous son.

Michael Douglas, Kirk Douglas

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Douglas planned on doing things differently, but he didn't, at least not at first.

"My career was really just getting started and that was my focus, maybe more than it should have been," he told the magazine in 2013. "I was gone more than I should have been."

Michael Douglas entered rehab for alcohol addiction when Cameron was 13. He and Deandra divorced in 1995, when Cameron was about 17. Michael's half-brother Eric Douglas died of an overdose in 2004.

#ThrowbackThursday to our holiday vacation last year! How are you getting in the spirit this holiday season?

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Douglas was also diagnosed with cancer (initially reported as throat cancer and he would later clarify that it was tongue cancer) in 2010.

With Cameron in prison and he himself fighting for his life, the Ant-Man star reiterated how he was trying to do things differently with Dylan and Carys.

"I'm not driven like I once was—these days I am consumed with being a father and with my responsibilities as a husband. I never anticipated starting a family at my age. I'm genuinely happy to let Catherine work, while I stay at home with the children. I cherish this time," he told The Guardian in October 2010.

He admitted, "During my first marriage, my career was the most important thing in my life. I clearly know I made mistakes. There were absences. My eldest son, Cameron, is in the middle of a very, very difficult and tragic time. Cameron has made a couple of big mistakes in his life. He's paid the price. On the other side of it, he's sober. The kids really miss him, and he misses them. I've taken them to visit. Now that my own priorities are entirely different, I'm always encouraging people to wait to have a family—get yourself sorted career-wise first as much as you can."

Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones

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Douglas also told the paper, "From now on I'm going to spend all my efforts on the people I'm closest to. When you're younger you are so self-involved, self-obsessed. As you get older, all of a sudden, you begin to appreciate relationships, be understanding about the foibles of life, more forgiving—and you've got more time for the kids. It makes for a much happier marriage and family environment."

His cancer battle and Zeta-Jones' own health issues took a toll, however, and the couple separated in 2013. Within months, though, they had reconciled and recently they've looked as close as ever.

Meanwhile, Douglas hasn't stopped reflecting on how he could have done better by Cameron earlier in life.

Lunch in Saint Tropez. Happy all around!

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"When you're busy all the time, you don't think about a whole lot of things other than the realities that are in front of you," he said in the February/March 2016 issue of AARP The Magazine.

"I see [Cameron] twice a month now because he's incarcerated closer to our home," Douglas said. "He's a drug addict, but he's done more than his fair share of time for it."

While his sentence initially had him in prison until 2018, Cameron has been released after serving seven years and is now living at a halfway house in Brooklyn.

And so begins the real shot, for both father and son, at doing it differently this time around.

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