Michael Douglas Explains Why He Ditched Prosthetics to Play Benjamin Franklin (Exclusive)

The 79-year-old actor talked with ET ahead of the release of his brand new Apple TV+ series.

Michael Douglas says he had his work cut out for him turning into Benjamin Franklin for his new Apple TV+ series. 

Talking with ET's Cassie DiLaura ahead of the release of his show, Franklin, the 79-year-old actor said that when it came to taking on the role of the francophile founding father, he decided that the best way to transform would be to keep it simple and let the acting do the leg work.

"In terms of physical, we did, I did look at that picture [on a $100 bill] and we did say, 'Well, let's give it a try with appliances and the whole, the whole work.' But, it kind of -- the producing half of my career took over and I started figuring out, 'Well, let's see, the hotel is 45 minutes to the studio. It's gonna be two, two and a half hours of makeup in the back,'" Douglas said. "I hate those situations."

The show was shot on location in Paris, France for eight months and, given the intense shooting schedule for the Fatal Attraction star and his castmates, the producing team -- including Douglas who serves as executive producer -- ultimately decided that a scaled-down look for the titular character would be better for all. 

Michael Douglas stars as Benjamin Franklin in Apple TV+'s new series 'Franklin,' dropping on April 12 - Apple TV+

Douglas told ET that he thinks the decision to not delve too deep into the world of prosthetics and movie makeup "seems to be holding up pretty well" and that he believes the cast and crew still accomplished exactly what they were setting out to. He also adds that there was one particular facet of the real-life diplomat that he took incredibly seriously. 

"I did grow my own hair out, but just to accentuate it. I had like a half wig,” the actor said. He further remarked that the hair journey on the set of Franklin ended up a net positive because it brought him back to his younger -- and groovier -- days. 

"But it was sort of fun at the end of the day, yeah, I was flowing... I was a hippie in another time generation, so [it] kind of brought me back to my roots," he said, laughing.

Michael Douglas in a still from 'Franklin' - Apple

Douglas was joined in the interview by his co-star, Noah Jupe, who plays Franklin's grandson, William Temple Franklin. In the show and real life, Jupe's character traveled with his grandfather to France to ask the French for help in the Revolutionary War. 

For his part, the 19-year-old British actor -- best known for his role in John Krasinski's A Quiet Place films -- said that aside from working with Douglas and portraying the younger Franklin, who would go on to become a diplomat in his own right, the show was an opportunity to sink his teeth into a period piece of epic proportions. 

"I had probably the most fun out of anyone with the costumes... I think I got the broadest range of different, you know, I got to wear the wigs and then I also got to have the American vibe," he told ET. "I remember just like every day, one of the most exciting parts was walking in my trailer and I got to see what I was wearing for the day."

Douglas agreed, telling ET it was fun to see what Jupe was coming to set wearing. 

Michael Douglas and Noah Jupe in Apple TV+'s 'Franklin' - Apple

As for how Douglas – who admits that he is not as good with accents and languages as his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones – tackled Franklin's voice, the actor told ET he focused on intonation, speed, and depth to pull it off.

"I slowed down talking predominantly and articulated more," he shared. "I mean, I'm not good on accents per se -- Catherine, my wife, is Welsh and they're very -- she's very good at all different languages." The Chicago actress, 54, speaks both English and Welsh fluently. 

Douglas and Zeta-Jones wed in 2000 and share two children, Carys Zeta Douglas and Dylan Michael Douglas. 

Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones - FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

According to Apple TV, the show -- an eight-episode series -- is an adaptation of Kirk Ellis's A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America. The story focuses specifically on 70-year-old Benjamin Franklin as he worked to secure funding to help the United States gain its independence from the British. 

In a trailer released last month by the streaming service, Douglas is seen in action working to move the needle on France's behalf in order to help America gain its own sovereignty. 

"Without your aid," he says sternly in the clip, "the United States will end before it has begun."

Franklin also stars Marc Duret, Ludivine Sagnier, Thibault de Montalembert, Daniel Mays, Assaad Bouab, Eddie Marsan, Jeanne Balibar, Théodore Pellerin, and John Hollingworth. Behind the camera, the show boasts producers Kirk Ellis and Howard Korder, known for John Adams and Boardwalk Empire respectively. At the helm is Masters of the Air and The Sopranos director Tim Van Patten.

Watch a trailer for the limited series below: 

The first three episodes of Franklin release on Apple TV+ on April 12. Subsequent episodes air weekly on Fridays. 


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