You know, it’s funny—the first thing I think of him in, I didn’t even see until adulthood even though I saw ads for it all the time as a kid. It’s also about the only family movie he’s ever done, because he’d rather do movies for adults so they can have a night out together without their kids. His other preference is not doing period pieces, as he considers himself a contemporary guy. And indeed, I can perfectly picture him walking the ’70s streets of San Francisco even though I’m pretty sure I’ve never actually seen The Streets of San Francisco.
A lot of people assume that his career is pure Hollywood nepotism, and it’s true that he got his first job as an uncredited truck driver in his father’s film Cast a Giant Shadow. And also his father apparently wanted to be cast as McMurphy, which would have been just weird. (He gave his father a producer credit, and apparently Kirk made more money from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest than any other movie he’s made.) On the other hand, he’s been working steadily, if not so prolifically as his father, as an actor since 1966 and a producer since 1975. And Kirk doesn’t have quite the same pull in the industry now as he used to.
Meanwhile, Michael has a perfect Oscar record—once for producing Cuckoo’s Nest and once as Best Actor in Wall Street. He’s joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Hank Pym, of course. He’s done action, drama, comedy, and documentaries. If he were just a product of Hollywood nepotism, you’d figure his career would have sputtered out by now. Okay, so he’s not necessarily an Oscar contender these days, but Head Full of Honey could be good, and I have hoped for We Have Always Lived at the Castle. Even if I’m not enthused about a Flatliners sequel.
His relationship with his father has apparently not been great their whole lives, though that seems to have been as much because of his parents’ divorce as anything else. When your mother gets full custody, I’m sure it influences your relationship with your father. How could it not? But I also have a book of snarky quotes by one celebrity about another, and it quotes Kirk as having said that, if he’d known Michael would turn out to be such a big deal, he would’ve been nicer to him. Which I’m almost certain is a joke.
And, yes, Michael’s a cancer survivor. Doing quite well these days, apparently. The odd thing is that, although he initially said his cancer was of the throat, that was for PR reasons. His doctor’s idea. He had tongue cancer, which apparently has a pretty bad prognosis for most people—and can be more disfiguring. And Michael was about to do promotional tours for the Wall Street sequel, so call it throat and clarify it later. Also, while his particular cancer is one of the ones spread by HPV, and therefore theoretically vaccine-preventable, there’s no certainty that this particular case was from HPV. When he said it was spread by oral-genital contact, he didn’t actually mean for certain that his own was spread that way. Because, you know, also smoking?