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Interview: Michael Douglas hopes India welcome religious diversity this election, not be a country

Autor: Devansh Sharma

Three years after The Kominsky Method concluded, veteran actor Michael Douglas is returning to the small screen with Franklin, a period political drama where he plays Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of the US. Essaying the historical figure has lent Michael a fresh perspective to view the state of democracy across the globe today, from his home country of America to a land he loves visiting – India.

Michael Douglas is hopeful India will welcome religious diversity this election
Michael Douglas is hopeful India will welcome religious diversity this election

(Also Read: Michael Douglas praises PM Narendra Modi at IFFI, says ‘India is in good hands’)

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Michael Douglas on India

“We love India, as you probably know. We were there for five weeks. It was our first trip in the South. I think it’s an extraordinary country, the future in a lot of ways,” said Michael in an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times. He also hailed India’s linguistic diversity. “Talking about democracy, to see a country with 28 different states, who speak 22 official languages… I think that’s very healthy,” added Michael, who visited Karnataka, Kerala, Goa, and Telangana with his family last year, celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Eve in the country.

He was also conferred with the Satyajit Ray Lifetime Achievement Award by the Indian government at the International Film Festival of India, held in Goa this past November. While Michael said India is “in good hands” at IFFI, he’s counting on it to become a more vibrant democracy. “I’m hopeful that you can resolve some key political issues that are going on right now in your election, in terms of welcoming religious diversity, rather than becoming a country under only one religion,” he told us.

Michael didn’t spare the US from this scrutiny either. Ahead of the premiere of Franklin in Cannes, France on Wednesday, Michael said at the press conference, “I think that Ben (Benjamin Franklin) would be highly, highly disappointed in the distortion of either a republic or democracy that the United States has become. I hope that this upcoming election will be a cathartic experience for the United States and turn the page onto a new chapter,” he said.

However, he did tell us that US President Joe Biden, 81, could take a cue from Benjamin Franklin in one regard – much after writing, inventing, opening universities, libraries, and post offices all his life, and drafting the Declaration of Independence, he was sent on a mission to seek support from France. “I realised that in 1776, the average age of an American to live was 39 years old. And here he was at 70, making an eight-year trip to a new country. My personal opinion is that it’d give Joe Biden a new breath of fresh air and for all of us to realise that he’s very well capable to function beyond 70,” said Michael.

On filming Franklin

Franklin, Michael’s new show, in fact focuses on this very leg of Benjamin’s life – his journey to France for the sake of America. “He was an overwhelmingly unbelievable Renaissance figure. It was hard to grasp the extent of what he was doing. A two-month trip across the Atlantic at that age to go and ask a country for their support. So there he is, in a new democracy going to one of the world’s oldest monarchies to ask them for support for his country. It’s an impossible situation, loaded with spies and backstabbers,” added Michael.

Michael and his team shot mostly on real locations in France at a time when the country is preparing to host the Olympics this year. He looks back at it as the best production and ensemble he’s ever worked with. “I noticed a lady sitting behind the camera. I asked, ‘Who’s that?’ It was the casting director from France. I went over and gave her the biggest hug I ever could. I had tears in my mind that we had such great actors. I get a laugh out of the fact that French actors looked at each other and said, ‘I didn’t know you speak English! You’re very good,” said an amused Michael.

Michael had the maximum scenes with Noah Jupe, the 19-year-old British actor who played his grandson Temple Franklin. While Noah said Michael made for a “great grandfather,” the 79-year-old actor admitted that he’s also enjoying his current phase as a real-life grandpa to Lua, 6, and Ryder, 3, from his first wife Diandra Luker. He also has a son Dylan, 23, and daughter Carys, 20, from his second wife and Welsh actor Catherine Zeta-Jones.

“When I used to go see my daughter in college, they’d say, ‘This is not grandparents’ weekend, this is parents’ weekend.’ And I’d tell them, ‘No, I’m the father.’ But I’m glad I don’t have to do that anymore,” said Michael, whose Instagram bio reflects the various roles he loves to juggle today: “Husband, Father, Grandfather, Actor, Producer & @UnitedNations Messenger of Peace.”

So much so that the last time we saw him on the big screen was as Hank Pym in Marvel’s Ant-Man franchise. He’s happy to be not doing much on the work front, and prefers to spend time with his growing, blended family. “Well, I won’t say I’m retired, but I’m enjoying life. So far, I’m luckily not doing anything except promoting this show. We’ll see how it goes. I’m enjoying not working, I must say.”

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