Drugs, Jail And The Family Curse
Although he did everything in his power to avert the terrible moment, Michael Douglas had completely expected that his son Cameron would be sentenced to a jail term.
And the knowledge that it would be his duty, as a father, to witness the sentencing, had troubled him for months.
Has he ever looked older than he did on the court's steps in New York this week? His face was nearly as grey as his pale £5 000 (R57 000) Armani suit and for once he looked every one of his 65 years. You could see the hard lines of disappointment etched around his mouth.
As Michael had feared, his son Cameron was sent down for five years. He admitted to conspiring to distribute drugs, after crystal methamphetamine worth $18 000 was found in his hotel room in July.
Cameron, 31, had been warned that he could be jailed for up to a decade - hence the letters pleading for leniency which came from his father, his stepmother Catherine Zeta-Jones, his grandfather Kirk and his mother Diandra.
The family understood that - despite attempts at rehabilitation and spells of "tough love" - Cameron had blown all his chances, but were still desperate to see the sentence reduced.
It transpires that Cameron, who started dealing drugs after being cut off from the family fortune, has been addicted to heroin for several years. Indeed, his girlfriend, Kelly Sott, was caught trying to smuggle the drug into prison for him in the handle of a battery-operated toothbrush last year.
Michael now admits that his son has been taking one drug or another ever since he was 13 years old.
The two-hour visits which he has had with his son since Cameron was taken into custody have been his first chance to get to know his eldest son as a drug-free adult.
By the time Cameron reached his 20s, Michael Douglas had started dating Zeta-Jones. As Cameron struggled, his father was occupied with being a father to Dylan and Carys, his half- brother and half-sister. It's fair to say that Michael made some effort to reach out to his older boy - Cameron was best man at his wedding and Catherine attempted to bring him into the family. But his destructive habits persisted. Not long after the wedding, he was evicted from his New York flat.
Michael tried to take him in hand, first by giving him a role in a movie It Runs in the Family, which starred him and Kirk. But Cameron didn't capitalise on the push it gave to his movie career. Instead, he was smitten by the DJ lifestyle and the drugs that went with it.
Finally, his father's patience wore out. In 2006, Michael Douglas cut Cameron off from the family millions in the hope that this might bring him to his senses. Two years ago, there was something of a rapprochement after which father and son spoke about the past.
How crushing for Michael Douglas to realise that he had not been able to help his son. Sources in New York, where he and Catherine are now living, say the strain which it has put on their 10-year marriage is said to be considerable.
But recently, Douglas spoke of a new-found pride in his son. "He's sober. I get to witness the wonderful young man he can be. He blames no one but himself," he said. He adds that Cameron is a "tough kid". He will need to be.