BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — It’s never too late to learn something new. The rule proved true when actor Michael Douglas and TV producer Chuck Lorre joined forces for a new venture.
Douglas, veteran of countless dramas like “Wall Street,” “Behind the Candelabra” and “Basic Instinct,” and Lorre, creator of TV sitcoms “The Big Bang Theory” and “Two and a Half Men,” collaborated for the new serio-comic series “The Kominsky Method,” streaming on Netflix.
For Douglas it proved a whole new experience. “The movies that I used to do, the movies that I liked — the character-driven little indie pictures that I did — I was becoming frustrated with the lack of real distribution or time,” he says.
“These are pictures that you would do for very little money under a tremendous amount of pressure. You would be the marketing budget, in terms of going on all the (talk) shows. And you’d end up sort of watching the movies play in a theater for seven days or something like that, and then go right to streaming ... I’m thinking about pictures like ‘Solitary Man’ and ‘King of California,’ pictures I really liked,” he says.
“So I love this medium. This came along, this streaming possibility. And the combination of when I got this script from Chuck Lorre — who I’m just a tremendous fan of in all of his series, going back to ‘Dharma and Greg,’ ‘Two and a Half Men’ and even earlier than that. And then ‘The Big Bang Theory’ was something my family and I really enjoyed.
“So when the script came to me, just to take a look at it, and it was just great, great writing. And I thought, ‘What a wonderful opportunity! Here’s a chance to play some comedy, which I don’t normally get a chance to do that often in a format like Netflix, streaming, where there are no commercials.’
“And it’s like a 25- to 35-minute movie. No time limits, language, and all of that. So it was a great opportunity and sort of been my year between doing green screen movies, which I’d never done in my life before, and now having a chance to do a series like this with Chuck and Alan (Arkin) has been really a treat.”
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It was a conversion of sorts for Lorre, too. “I like learning new things,” he says. “I really do. It’s fun to get up in the morning and not know what’s going to happen. And I learned a lot watching Michael and Alan. We’re looking at a great deal of experience in something I don’t have a lot of experience at. So I was a student of this very much. I was following around and asking a lot of questions of the DP (director of photography) and the other directors. And this has been really exciting for me, because I really was in uncharted territory.”
Lorre didn’t write the story with Douglas and Arkin in mind. The original script — which is about a has-been actor-turned-drama coach and his longtime agent-friend — was a spec script. “I wrote it because I wanted to write it,” he says. “And then, when Michael and Alan agreed to do it, then we rewrote it so that it was hopefully more adjusted for their voices,” says Lorre, 66.
“And we continued to do that through the eight episodes, to try and capture their voices. And that’s the great thing about writing for people like Michael and Alan is you can hear them. They don’t have to be in the room, you can hear them. And while you’re writing, you can kind of maybe get a sense of the words, and whether the words are appropriate, or not,” he says.
Lorre based the series on his own life, he says. “The show began with my desire to write about what I’m living, which is getting older. And entropy and the dissolution of form, the decay of the flesh — and it has to be funny, otherwise it’s heartbreaking. And there’s the loss of loved ones and how it affects your relationships and friendship and how you respond to a culture that feels like it’s moving away from you. So that was the impetus for the show, to do all that and hopefully — and have some comedy involved,” he says.
While the 74-year-old Douglas’ career continues to thrive, he feels he’s always challenged.
“The one good thing about getting older is you can say, ‘Well, Michael, you’ve always pulled it out before. You kind of know you should be able to do it.’ But the challenge to do it well is always there.”