"My priorities were very similar [to my father's]. Career first," Douglas tells Vanity Fair's April issue in describing Cameron's early years.
When Douglas and his first wife, Diandra Luker, split in the 1990s, it left Cameron with a largely absent celebrity father – much the same situation that Michael endured when his parents divorced in the 1950s.
"The history of second-generation actors isn't great in our industry. It's kind of a tragic road, actually," says Douglas, who went to rehab for alcohol problems in the early 1990s. It's a pattern that has continued with the third generation, as Cameron himself was once an aspiring actor.
Cameron, 31, pleaded guilty in January to distributing a large quantity of crystal meth. Michael, 65, has repeatedly put a brave face on how he's been dealing with his son's drug and legal problems.
"Anybody who has a relative or child in substance abuse has some idea of what this feels like. This is one of those worst-case scenarios," says the actor who stars in the upcoming Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. "It will ultimately be a painful lesson and very expensive as far as time is concerned. I don't wish it on anybody, but then, you know, look, everybody's got difficult things in life."
One positive note is that Michael, like his father Kirk, has been driven to change his ways – in Michael's case, by being a better father to his two young children with Catherine Zeta-Jones: Dylan, 9, and Carys, 6.
Zeta-Jones says her husband has been devoted to the youngsters from the beginning. "I'm sure if he could breast-feed, he would have," she says.