The confessions continue. First it was Rielle Hunter talking to Oprah. Then Conan O’Brien spoke to ’60 Minutes.’ On Monday morning, Michael Douglas sits down with the ‘Today‘ show’s Matt Lauer and opens up for the first time since his son, Cameron, 31, was given a five-year prison sentence on drug-related charges.
Two weeks ago, as the Oscar-winning actor looked on, the younger Douglas pleaded guilty in Federal District Court in Manhattan to charges of distributing large quantities of methamphetamines and cocaine over a three-year period. He also acknowledged possessing heroin while under house arrest.
“Look, my son was a drug dealer and he’s been trying to kill himself for a while and I can’t condone his behavior, so I think the court recognized his drug addiction as well as the crime that he committed,” Douglas tells Lauer when asked if his famous last name got him a more lenient sentence. “And it’s an adequate, I think, amount of time for anybody to spend in jail, and the best part of it is, he will be able to start his life afresh.
Here are additional excerpts from the interview (airing Monday, May 3, on NBC News’ ‘Today’:
MATT LAUER: Much was made of the letters that you wrote to the judge, that Catherine wrote the judge, and your dad wrote to the judge, asking for leniency, and I’m wondering if you ever worried that that was a double-edged sword. That the celebrity side of this, with you reaching out in that way, might actually cause the judge to say, wait a second , I’m not gonna bow to celebrity pressure and that he might have sentenced Cameron more harshly.
MICHAEL DOUGLAS: Well I think any person can understand writing letters for leniency. Everybody does it. The fact that the letters were published was not what we understood. We believed that they were personal letters to the judge that were to be sealed but under heavy pressure from news organizations who basically took a minor drug dealing sentence and blew this into a big story, for their own purposes of selling newspapers or keeping it going, so all the letters were from the heart and the fact is with all the mistakes, and the disease that Cameron has, he’s a great young man. And I wouldn’t be supporting him if I didn’t feel that way.
MATT LAUER: In your letter to the judge, since it has been made public, you said “For the past eight months I have cherished my 2-hour-a-week in person conversation with Cameron at the MCC [Metropolitan Correctional Center]. He’s sober! I get to witness the wonderful young man he can be. He maintains his spirit, blames no one but himself, and recognizes his criminal activity began with his heroin use.” You talk about his spirit. What’s his spirit like now? I mean, he’s facing five years. That is a long time to a 31 year-old.
MICHAEL DOUGLAS: It’s a long time. His spirit is good. The difficulty is, he’s been in prison waiting for his sentencing for almost a year. And the unknown part of that was really really difficult. But as I say in my letter, my son has not been sober for this length of time since he was thirteen years old. So he was going to be dead or somebody was gonna kill him, and I think he has a chance to start a new life and he knows that. And from my understanding, it’s going to take that amount of time for him to rebuild and start himself afresh.
MATT LAUER: Your ex-wife, Cameron’s mom, Diandra, wrote a letter to the judge as well. I read it. I thought it was a very blunt letter. She was tough on you as well. When you read it, what was your reaction?
MICHAEL DOUGLAS: Well, ya know, this disease as you look at it, certainly the family has a lot to do with it. I’ve taken blames about being a bad father — if being a bad father is working your butt off trying to create a career at one time. I’ve also confessed the fact that I was in rehab twenty 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.
MATT LAUER: You have two other children. Dylan’s 9. Carys is 7 I believe. (Right.) How did you explain this situation to them? How’d you talk to them about what Cameron got himself into and is now going through?
MICHAEL DOUGLAS: We didn’t tell them for a long time. We didn’t tell them at all until the sentencing came up and all the publicity because I didn’t think there was any reason for them. Cameron was in Europe for a long time. But when the sentencing came up and all the publicity, we let them know before they went to school that next day. And we said that Cameron was in prison for drug dealing and explained a little about it. And they were fine with the knowledge that they knew where he was. He’d always send–he’s been wonderful about sending his sister Carys cards from prison and all that, but with them, that security of knowledge of knowing and the fact that they will be able to visit and see him in the future.
MATT LAUER: You said you’re willing to take some of the blame for what happened to Cameron and you’ve also said from what I’ve read that you’ve completely changed your parenting style with Dylan and Carys. What’s the biggest difference?
MICHAEL DOUGLAS: Priorities, Matt. I mean, 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. 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, so my priorities have completely changed. My marriage and my families come certainly before my career.