Cameron Douglas on growing up in a Hollywood dynasty: Part 1

Cameron Douglas, the son of Michael Douglas and the grandson of Kirk Douglas, used drugs, was kicked out of schools and sought out rough crowds through his teen years.
8:35 | 10/23/19

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Transcript for Cameron Douglas on growing up in a Hollywood dynasty: Part 1
Reporter: This is a story of a family, part of the ruling class of Hollywood. For decades, nothing out of reach. Michael! Reporter: The most beautiful nights. The most beautiful houses from the lush gardens of California to the 247 acres on the cliffs of mallorca, Spain, and all around, all those beautiful people. It's strange growing up seeing your father and grandfather as giants projected on screens and billboards. How do you compete with Kirk Douglas? How do you live in Michael Douglas' shadow. Michael, Michael! Reporter: A child of that family is standing in the hall getting ready to tell the story of how far he traveled before he could see his way back home. Three years ago, Cameron Douglas was released from prison. I hate to keep a beautiful woman waiting. Reporter: Well, thank you. Now 40, he was confined seven years behind bars, including in maximum security and nearly two years in solitary confinement. Do I have this right? When you were 13, you were smoking pot. When you were 15, you were snorting cocaine. When you were 17, you had sampled crystal meth. 19, liquid cocaine. 26, heroin. How close were you to dying? Probably pretty close. Reporter: You said, "I was playing a game of chicken with myself." Is it a kind of miracle you're okay? I like -- I like the sound of that word. It sounds good. We'll see if -- we'll see if I can turn it into that. I think that -- that remains to be seen. Reporter: As Cameron Douglas talks, it's hard not to be distracted. Look at the faces of the three generations, that dynasty of Douglas men. My father. My father. My father. Reporter: The family signature, a kind of tough glamour. Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Reporter: His father, a powerhouse producer. Hit-making actor. Woo-hoo! Reporter: And his grandfather not only played the invincible "Spartacus," he was the star who made 87 films including that huge hit "20,000 leagues under the sea." I show Cameron a documentary. His father and grandfather remember that famous song. You have a whale of a tale or two but the swapping fish and the girls I knew nights like this with the moon above I swear by my tattoo he's amazing. Reporter: The kind of hopeless admiration he says he felt as a little boy watching those award shows from home and hoping to live up to the family name. Michael Douglas, "Wall Street." Reporter: You said, "I wanted to impress him. I wanted him to be my friend. I revered him." Good night, Cameron. I love you. Yeah. Reporter: His new book is called "Long way home." He paints a portrait of a childhood looking out at adults with intoxicating substances, the pulse of their ambition and flirtation and very few rules. That's Jack Nicholson, Warren beatty, Gregory peck, there, at his parents' wedding. Michael Douglas, age 32. His mother, a 19-year-old diplomat's daughter, diandra. She's still attending college classes. Cameron writes about the little boy who looked up adoringly at his very young mother who was a little lost in Hollywood. An exotic, fragile beauty suddenly raising a child and finding strange comfort in keeping wild animals in the house. A monkey that would bite and Leopard-like wildcat, illegal to own in about half of the 50 states. Reporter: But at night, he says, she would turn on the music and the two of them were dance with air instruments, laughing until she soothed him to sleep. We would do a whole little concert. You know, to be on the flute, sometimes a high hat. Reporter: What is a high hat hiss? When you hear people play the drums, and you hear, like, the kick, that's like the boom. The high hat is a -- boom, tiss. Reporter: And softies. And softies. Yes. Reporter: Which were just -- Just stroking my back. I used to love them. I used to ask for them. My father would administer softies, too. He might not admit it, but -- Reporter: So when in the life of a happy child does something begin to go wrong? His father's career has exploded. You tell my wife, I'll kill you. Reporter: Provocative hit -- You're in over your head. Maybe. But this is how I'll catch my killer. Reporter: After provocative Well, well, well. Reporter: Long stretches away from home. I try to be as supportive as possible. He got me at a young age, so he sort of broke me in the right way. Now, hopefully, I'll take, like, three or four months off. Do you believe this is going to happen, diandra? Not really. Reporter: In his book, Cameron says his young mother was looking for her life. I think she had a difficult time finding her way. She took to going away on her own adventures, sometimes for weeks at a time. Reporter: And everyone had read those rumors. Eight years into the marriage, mom learned that dad was having a fling. Reporter: He says when he was 7 years old, his mother tells him about her anguish. She says to you, "He's with somebody else. What are we going to do?" It's a lot of responsibility at 7 years old. You would cry yourself to sleep, according to a friend. Really? Reporter: Binge eating. You were really struggling as a little kid. He's 13 years old when he is sent off to boarding school and writes of his home sickness and how dad's racy movies are getting him bullied. "I'm starting to catch some more flak from basic instinct." Yeah. Reporter: He tries to muscle up wrestling like his famous grandfather. He tries to hit hard in football, which gets the attention of his dad, who says, "He's a tough little kid. I loved hearing him say that." Reporter: But he writes, inside, the insecurity remains. When he tries marijuana, he says he feels the pressure lift and he finds a path out of loneliness, joining up with other kids using drugs. I think just trying to -- test myself on a regular basis. Reporter: To prove you belonged in this hierarchy of Douglas men? I think so. Subconsciously. Reporter: He's kicked out of boarding schools, comes back home, where he joins up with a menacing group of kids who call themselves "The sewer rats." I usually had a buck knife or a switchblack. Coming at you with a rock. Reporter: The drugs there are cocaine and crystal meth. He says he sets out to become the crazy white boy, the bully of bullies, which makes him the kind of staff. My father used to call me the king of the . So maybe I felt entitled as the king of the . Reporter: His parents are alarmed. There are wilderness camps. Juvenile facililities. Even Hazelton rehab. We count, you will be in and out of rehabs 11 times before you're in your mid 20s. They didn't work. Why did nothing work? Because I wasn't ready to change. Reporter: Do you blame your parents? No. Reporter: Is there some, an ounce of blame? There are millions and millions of little kids that have it way worse off than that little kid did. So, it's just -- everybody's dealt a hand. And it's -- it's how we play the hand, you know?

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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