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Tuesday, 04/25/06

'Sentinel' lures Douglas away from family hiatus

HOLLYWOOD Michael Douglas has been missing in action from the big screen for the past thee years.

The reason wasn't because he was licking his wounds from the poor reception for his last movie, the remake of the comedy The In-Laws. The 61-year-old Oscar-winning actor-producer has been playing the role of dad to his two children with second wife Catherine Zeta-Jones: 5-year-old son Dylan and 3-year-old daughter Carys.

"I lucked out," Douglas said over the phone from Bermuda. "I just lucked out. You clearly change your priorities one day. I got a lovely wife and a second time around. I never thought I would start another family. I can't find much reason to go to work in place of spending time with them. It is all selfish; it is just a joy, like today."

During his self-imposed hiatus, Douglas' production company was developing projects for the actor and he was evaluating scripts. When he was ready to return to work, he chose the political thriller The Sentinel, which opened last Friday.

Douglas plays Peter Garrison, a seasoned Secret Service agent who had saved President Reagan's life by jumping in front of the barrage of bullets during the assassination attempt in 1981. Years later, Garrison has the prime assignment of guarding the first lady (Kim Basinger).

Kiefer Sutherland plays a hard-nosed investigative agent. Eva Longoria of Desperate Housewives is an ambitious young agent assigned to Sutherland.

Screenwriter and co-producer George Nolfi says little is left of the Gerald Petievich novel on which the film is based primarily Garrison's affair with the first lady.

"What I wanted to do with the book was transform it into something very realistic," Nolfi said.

"The entire second half of the movie is completely invented and the characters were largely transformed or invented."

The role of Garrison, Nolfi believes, is perfect for Douglas.

"You want to see certain actors do certain things," he said. "This is something I even said in my first meeting with Michael. As an audience member, I want to see Michael Douglas in a suit and a tie in the corridors of power because he just fits there so well."

Director Clark Johnson (S.W.A.T., The Shield, The Wire) found that Douglas "directs himself. The guy is a stone-cold pro. He's been doing this a long time. He knows exactly what he's doing."

Sentinel was shot in just 50 days.

Douglas will be seen again come summer as Kate Hudson's father in the comedy You, Me & Dupree. He's also about to start a new film, The King of California.

But on the phone, the actor seemed more eager to talk about his plans for the family for the following day.

"Friday is Kite Day here," he said. "I've got a lot of family down here and we have a kite party. There are kite parties all over the place. You stand up on a hill and you see hundreds and hundreds of kites all up and down the island. It's stunning." •

<b>Peter Garrison (Michael Douglas, right) confronts David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland) in a scene from the political thriller </b><b><i>The Sentinel</i></b><b>.</b>Enlarge
Peter Garrison (Michael Douglas, right) confronts David Breckinridge (Kiefer Sutherland) in a scene from the political thriller The Sentinel. (AP)


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