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Welcome to the Posts section of the official Kirk Douglas website. Its purpose is to let Kirk share his thoughts and activities with you, and to enable you to share your thoughts with him.

Below you’ll find links to the most recent posts, regardless of category.

If you click on the “Reflections” button to the left, you’ll be taken to a page where Kirk, a best-selling writer as well as a movie star, has posted his most recent thoughts and musings.

If you click the “Activities” button, you’ll be taken to a page where you can learn about current and past goings-on in which Kirk is involved.

By clicking “Fan Mail,” you’ll have the opportunity to share your thoughts with Kirk.

Kirk's most recent book Life Could Be Verse was published December 2, 2014. This link will enable you to get a copy, and have part of the proceeds go to the work of The Douglas Foundation.

What do you actually want to see get a sequel or a remake?

--avclub.com January 23, 2015

[Editor's note: A.V. Club Austin asked its staff what classic film they would like to see remade. Here is William Hughes's response.]

I feel a little bad proposing a remake of a movie that’s already a bona-fide classic, but I can’t help but think a modern-day version of Billy Wilder’s 1951 masterpiece of satire, Ace in the Hole, would be something special. After all, the media has only grown more saturated with the need for spectacle since Wilder and screenwriters Walter Newman and Lesser Samuels told their tale of an opportunistic newspaperman (a beautifully seething Kirk Douglas) who manipulates the fate of a trapped miner to garner fame and fortune for himself. Expand the original’s focus on the corruptibility of “human interest” to encompass 24-hour news networks, social media, and the rest of our elaborately hashtagged culture, and you could have the toothiest piece of satire Hollywood has unleashed in years. George Clooney’s hungry charisma would fit like a glove in the role of Chuck Tatum, and his frequent collaborators Joel and Ethan Coen would finally get to marry their dual fascinations with screwball dialogue and the darker side of human nature in one neat, nasty little package.

Honoring Actors of Every Age

--Wall Street Journal, January 13, 2015

KD-AFI

Photo: Kirk Douglas receives AFI Life Achievement Award, 1991

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.—There isn’t much time for schmoozing at the American Film Institute awards luncheon, except perhaps afterward, while waiting for the valet. (The clever attendees park on the street outside the Four Seasons, where the annual event is held.)

Call time is noon, and while other events drag their feet, everyone gets to their seats by 12:30 p.m.

This year “everyone” included Matthew McConaughey, Oprah Winfrey , Meryl Streep, Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway , Clint Eastwood, Jon Hamm, Clive Owen, and Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, thanks to the fact that the 11 films and 10 television shows added to the institute’s pantheon of entertainment included “Interstellar,” “Selma,” “Mad Men,” “Unbroken,” “American Sniper,” “The Knick” and “Into the Woods.”

Other newcomer TV series were “Jane the Virgin,” “How to Get Away With Murder,” “Silicon Valley,” “Fargo” and “Transparent.” On Tuesday, the American Film Institute released a series of videos, made during the luncheon, for its Almanac, in which some of the aforementioned performers discuss how they want their work to be remembered.

For years, the afternoon has managed to remain relatively earnest. “It’s a mad, mad, mad world, and you manage to make sense of it,” A.F.I. President Bob Gazzale told the crowd, echoing his comments from the year before. “There is no game to be played here today. You have won.”

Perhaps more so than other organizations, this one tries to create a continuity between the entertainment and entertainers of the past with those of the present. To that end, Kirk Douglas began the lunch.

“It’s nice to see so many familiar faces,” he said, “especially when you are 98 years old.”

Another old-timer—the 92-year-old Norman Lear —closed out the event with what the A.F.I. calls a “benediction,” perhaps the nicest touch of this particular ceremony. Mr. Lear, like Mr. Douglas, got a standing ovation.

“When you hit 90, there’s a huge change,” said Mr. Lear, who apparently has a proclivity for expletives. “It doesn’t take place in me, but it takes place in you. At 88, I got a warm reception, but at 92, holy s—.”

Mr. Lear added that he was “knocked out” by the films and TV honored this season. “The best advice I can give is just keep on doing what you’re doing.”

 

Despite their ages, Messrs. Lear and Douglas are apparently doing just that. Their recently published books—Mr. Lear’s “Even This I Get To Experience” and Mr. Douglas’s “Life Could Be Verse”—were in the gift bags, alongside award certificates to the many people involved in the honored projects.

Kirk Douglas Fellowship Announced at AFI Annual Awards Luncheon

--American Film Institute January 9, 2015

America's finest film and television artists were among the guests honored today by the American Film Institute (AFI) at its annual AFI AWARDS 2014 luncheon.  With no winners or losers, AFI AWARDS celebrates the complete creative ensembles behind the year's most outstanding motion pictures and television programs – and for the first time in the program's history, the voting procedure yielded an additional film honoree, resulting in 11 motion picture selections alongside the 10 for television. 

Film icon and AFI Life Achievement Award honoree Kirk Douglas (SPARTACUS) made a rare and surprise public appearance at the event, where he announced the establishment of a Kirk Douglas Fellowship at the AFI Conservatory.  This endowed scholarship marks the first named for a recipient of the AFI Life Achievement Award, America's highest honor in film.  The Kirk Douglas Fellowship will be a full-tuition two-year scholarship awarded biennially to one AFI Conservatory Fellow.  This scholarship serves as an enduring investment by a master filmmaker, and an educational legacy that will echo into the future of the ongoing excellence of the art form.

Also at the event, AFI revealed its official rationales (below) for all 21 honorees, providing the cultural and artistic context to mark these outstanding creative endeavors as the year's notable milestones.  Additionally, attending artists contributed to the Institute's ongoing almanac of excellence by recording video comments about the art form.  These videos will be live on AFI.com on Tuesday, January 13, 2015.

Legendary American film and television producer/director/writer Norman Lear (ALL IN THE FAMILY) delivered the benediction at the luncheon's end, acknowledging the magnitude of the honorees' contributions to the film and television landscape.  Additionally highlighting the extraordinary nature of this event, four AFI Life Achievement Award honorees attended:  Kirk Douglas (1991), Clint Eastwood (1996), Steven Spielberg (1995) and Meryl Streep (2004).

Representing their creative teams were guests such as:  Joel CoxClint Eastwood and Gary Roach (AMERICAN SNIPER); Edward Norton [BIRDMAN OR (THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE)]; Patricia ArquetteEllar ColtraneEthan HawkeLorelei Linklater and Richard Linklater (BOYHOOD); Steve Carell and Bennett Miller (FOXCATCHER); Keira KnightleyGraham Mooreand Morten Tyldum (THE IMITATION GAME); Jessica ChastainMackenzie FoyAnne HathawayMatthew McConaughey,Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan (INTERSTELLAR); Anna KendrickRob Marshall and Meryl Streep  (INTO THE WOODS); Dan GilroyJohn Gilroy and Rene Russo (NIGHTCRAWLER); Brad PittAva DuVernayDavid Oyelowo and Oprah Winfrey (SELMA); Matthew BaerAngelina Jolie and Miyavi (UNBROKEN); Jason Reitman, Miles Teller (WHIPLASH); Joseph Weisberg and Steven Spielberg (THE AMERICANS); Noah Hawley and Allison Tolman (FARGO); David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (GAME OF THRONES); Jack FalaheeAja Naomi King and Peter Nowalk (HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER); Justin Baldoni, Yael Grobglas and Jennie Snyder Urman (JANE THE VIRGIN); Jack AmielMichael Begler and Clive Owen (THE KNICK); Jon HammElisabeth Moss and Matthew Weiner (MAD MEN); Jenji Kohan (ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK); Amanda Crew and Thomas Middleditch  (SILICON VALLEY); and Jill Soloway and Jeffey Tambor (TRANSPARENT).

Historian Leonard Maltin, a member of the AFI Jury for Motion Pictures, recognized the film honorees with a reading of the official rationales.  Richard Frank, Chair of the AFI Jury for Television and an AFI Board of Trustees Vice Chair, similarly acknowledged the television honorees.

AFI Board of Trustees in attendance included:  AFI Board of Trustees Chair Sir Howard Stringer, AFI Board of Directors Chair Bob DalyJon AvnetGary BirkenbeuelRoger BirnbaumJim Breyer, Senator Christopher DoddNancy FisherJean Picker Firstenberg,Richard FrankJim GianopulosLawrence HerbertMarshall HerskovitzAlan Horn, Jon Jashni, Donna LangleyBryan LourdRon MeyerJay RoachRich RossTed SarandosChris SilbermannSteven SpielbergGeorge Stevens, Jr.Anne SweeneyKevin Tsujihara, and Edward Zwick.

Thirty-two AFI Conservatory alumni were among the creative ensembles of 15 official selections.

 

Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas & More to Star in 'CHAVEZ RAVINE' at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

--December 19, 2014

Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas & More to Star in 'CHAVEZ RAVINE' at the Kirk Douglas Theatre

Casting is set for powerhouse Latino theatre group Culture Clash's "Chavez Ravine: An L.A. Revival," which opens February 4, 2015, at the Center Theatre Group/Kirk DouglasTheatre in Culver City. Previews begin January 27 and performances run through March 1.

 

This revisited and reimagined "Chavez Ravine" is directed byLisa Peterson (who was at the helm of the world premiere in 2003 at the Mark Taper Forum) and features Culture Clash'sRichard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza along with Sabina Zuniga Varela and musicians Vaneza Mari Calderón, Randy Rodarte and Scott Rodarte.

 

"Chavez Ravine" has set design by Rachel Hauck, costume design by Christopher Acebo, lighting design by José López, sound design by Paul James Prendergast, music direction/arrangements by John Avila and projection design by Jason H. Thompson. The production stage manager is Kirsten Parker.

 

Energized with new material and music from the Rodarte Brothers, Culture Clash continues to examine the constantly changing landscape of urban Los Angeles, in particular, the potential transformation of a small, tightly knit neighborhood into what was initially to bea low-income housing project, but eventually became Dodger Stadium.

At 98, Kirk Douglas finds his poetic muse

--JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) December 19, 2014

Kirk Douglas grandson bar mitzvah pic

Kirk Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch, the son of an immigrant Russian Jewish ragman, marked his 98th birthday on Dec. 9 by launching his 11th book.

The legendary star of 87 movies (who can forget “Spartacus”?) can look back, in happiness and grief, on countless one-night stands with filmdom’s most beautiful women, a helicopter crash in which he was the only survivor, a stroke, two bar mitzvahs and the death of a son.

He has written about these and many other parts of his life in previous works. But there is something special about his latest, “Life Could Be Verse.”

“I have expressed my personal feelings and emotions more than in any other of my books,” said Douglas, sitting in his art-filled Beverly Hills home.

In the slim volume of poems, photos and anecdotes, Douglas is no longer the swaggering Hollywood star and serial philanderer of the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. His trademark dimpled chin and bright blue eyes are still there, but his blond hair is now fastened into a gray ponytail, and he walks carefully and speaks with a slur, a legacy of his stroke.

What he has not lost is his sharp sense of humor, his pride as a Jew and his love for Anne, his wife of 60 years. The cover of “Life Could Be Verse” shows an early photo of Douglas and Anne fondly kissing and the subtitle “Reflections on love, loss and what really matters.”

In his previous 10 books, Douglas’ prose is marked by the artlessness of a man whose casual conversation has been surreptitiously taped, and his poetry as well makes no pretensions to Shakespearean loftiness. But there is no doubt of his deep devotion when he serenades his wife on their 50th wedding anniversary in “Please Stay in Love With Me.”

    Does fifty years together
    Seem so long to you?
    The older the violin, the sweeter the music
    It is often said, and it’s true.
    To me, it seems like yesterday
    We met in gay Paree.
    Now Paris is sad, but I am glad
    You chose to marry me.

A lesser-known side of Douglas is expressed in “For Eric,” an elegy for the youngest of his four sons from two marriages, whose drug-induced death still haunts his father.

    I sit by your grave and weep,
    Silently, not to disturb your sleep.
    Rest in peace my beautiful son
    It won’t be long before we are one,
    While I lie down by your side.
    And talk, no secrets to hide.
    Tell me, Eric, what did I do wrong?
    What should I have done to make you strong?
    Now I sit here and cry,
    Waiting to be with you when I die.

Neither Anne nor Douglas’ first wife, actress Diana Dills, are of Jewish descent. But Anne converted to Judaism 10 years ago, explaining, “Kirk has been married to two shiksas, it’s time he married a nice Jewish girl.” The conversion did not change the couple’s relationship except for one ritual: Anne has taken over the Shabbat candle lighting on Friday nights that Kirk handled in their first 50 years together.

During an hourlong conversation, Douglas looked back on the lessons of a full and long life.

On God and religion: “I grew up praying in the morning and laying tefillin. I gave up much of the formal aspect of religion … I don’t think God wants compliments. God wants you to do something with your life and to help others.”

Douglas celebrated his first bar mitzvah at the Sons of Israel congregation in his hometown of Amsterdam, N.Y., and his second at 83, after the traditional biblical lifespan of 70 years, at Sinai Temple in West Los Angeles. He skipped his third bar mitzvah at 96, and plans to do the same at 109, when he would be entitled to his fourth bar mitzvah.

“That would be showing off,” he said. “I’m an actor, so I have already been showing off all my life.”

On attracting women: “When I was courting Anne in Paris, I couldn’t get through to her,” Douglas said. “One day she agreed to go to the circus with me, and when the circus performers recognized me, they insisted that I participate in the show. I had no idea what I was supposed to do, but as a string of circus elephants trotted out, I followed them in my tuxedo with a shovel and broom and started to clean up what the elephants had left behind.”

Anne was still laughing when Douglas took her home and she bestowed her first goodnight kiss on him. The poet in him celebrated the triumph by noting: “Anne thought I was a big hit, As she saw me shoveling s***.”

After the interview, Douglas emailed a final thought on a more serious topic.

“In the Jewish tradition, a birthday gives a person special power,” he wrote. “And if he issues a blessing, this blessing becomes true. So on my 98th birthday, I bless all people in the Land of Israel that the current conflict resolves itself, that no more people die or are hurt and that you can continue your lives in peace.”

 Kirk and Anne Douglas in the pool together, circa 1960. (Courtesy of Kirk and Anne Douglas)

 

 

Kirk Douglas and wife Anne reflect on life and a 60-year romance

--Associated Press December 11, 2014

Kirk Douglas is done with writing.

The rakish screen legend with the famously dimpled chin made that abundantly clear on a recent afternoon at his Beverly Hills home, a few days before the release of his poetry collection "Life Could Be Verse: Reflections on Love, Loss, and What Really Matters."

"To me, this is my best book, and my last book," said Douglas, seated next to Anne Douglas, his wife of over 60 years.

It was a pronouncement that came up more than a few times. The "Spartacus" star, who just turned 98, has 87 films to his name, 11 books, and is one of the last living members of old Hollywood. By now, the world probably thinks it knows Kirk Douglas.

But in some ways, "Life Could Be Verse" is his most personal work, featuring poems from throughout his life along with essays and private family photos that help paint a picture of Douglas as a man, a father and a husband.

In an industry not known for domestic stability, Kirk and Anne Douglas may be one of the great Hollywood romances. Seated closely on a cozy couch in a home that is elegant, modest and lived-in, the couple recalled their first meeting in Paris. He was working on the film "Act of Love." She was the publicist.

"I thought she was so beautiful, and I lowered my voice and said, 'Would you like to have dinner?'" he said. "I waited for an answer and she said, 'No, I think I will go home and make some eggs and go to bed.'"

Anne Douglas (then Buydens) had her own thoughts about transient movie stars. A lot of her friends were going out with actors at the time. "I said to myself, I'm not going to do that. I will work and I will do my work for the movie that I was hired for, but no intimate connection with the movie stars," she said.

Then she attended a charity event where actors played the parts of circus performers. Kirk Douglas, sporting a tuxedo, decided his talent would be cleaning up after the elephants.

"I held on until he picked up the elephant doo," she said, laughing heartily. "That did it for me."

Douglas, not missing a beat, chimed in: "Obviously she was looking for a garbage collector."

Still, a cute beginning is hardly noteworthy. Longevity is. "Romance begins at 80, and I ought to know," he said, referencing one of his poems.

"I'm a romantic guy. You think I'm always shooting guns with John Wayne, but I can be romantic. And, listen, we're sitting here. We have been married for 60 years. A few poems help."

Romance is just one of their secrets. Over the years, they have devoted themselves to philanthropy. The shared passion has been important for the couple, who've endured tragedy and loss, including his stroke in 1996 and the death of their youngest son, Eric Douglas, in 2004.

"Our goal has been, since we're able to do that, to help a little bit and to share what you have with those in need. That has been a very big bond between us," said Anne Douglas.

They've sold art from their personal collection to help fund various causes, including the restoration of over 400 playgrounds in the Los Angeles area and the development of a shelter for homeless women downtown. In 2012, the couple pledged $50 million to five charitable organizations.

Giving has been in Kirk Douglas' bones since childhood. "I was a boy who didn't have enough to eat. I had six sisters, no brothers. We were living by the railroad tracks and every night, hobos would come and knock on the door. And even though we didn't have enough, my mother always saved something so when they came to the door, she had something to give them. She taught me at an early age to help other people."

His career is pointedly on the back burner as he reflects on his life. A rebel on the screen and off, he counts crediting blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo on "Spartacus" as his most rebellious move. "I was much younger then, and I was much more stubborn," he said.

Now, Kirk and Anne Douglas are focused on their home, family and reflecting on a life well-lived. They recently hosted Thanksgiving at their home near Santa Barbara. Among the 14 attendees were Michael Douglas, his children and Michael Douglas' mother, actress Diana Dill, whom Anne Douglas refers to as "our ex-wife."

 

"We are living in a town of make-believe. I have done about 90 movies. That means that every time I was pretending to be someone else. There comes a time in your life when you say, well, 'who am I?'" he said. "I have found writing books a good substitute to making pictures. When you write a book, you get to determine what part you are playing."

 

At 98, Kirk Douglas Looks Back On His Start in Hollywood

--Variety December 9, 2014

Kirk Douglas

Legendary actor Kirk Douglas is celebrating his 98th birthday Dec. 9, with a book of poems called “Life Could Be Verse” (HCI Books). His storied career began on the Broadway stage, where he says, “I got a few bit parts, and absolutely no press notice” — that is, until “The Wind Is Ninety.”

Do you remember your  first mention in Variety?
In June 1945, I opened in a drama called “The Wind Is Ninety,” playing the ghost of a World War I soldier who takes the ghost of a World War II pilot back to his family to watch them receive news of his death. Although the critic gave it a mixed review — he mostly summarized a plot he found confusing — it was the first time I saw my name in Variety. Miraculously, the play was a hit. In January of 1946, the producers bought an ad in Variety quoting other critics about my performance: “Kirk Douglas is nothing short of superb” and “Kirk Douglas does an inspired job with a difficult role.”

 

How did you get to Hollywood?
My good friend Lauren Bacall — the toast of Hollywood after her film debut in “To Have and Have Not” — saw the ad. She told producer Hal Wallis to see me in the play. He listened to her. I had a major part in his next movie, “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers,” with Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin. It was a bigger paycheck than I’d ever gotten. That’s why I came to Hollywood — for the money. It took me a few more flops on Broadway to “settle” for movies. I got used to seeing my name in Army Archerd’s column in Variety.

 

What acting achievements are you proudest of?
I opted to play Midge Kelly in “Champion” rather than listen to my agents who advised me to join the A-list cast of “The Great Sinner” at MGM. Ever hear of it? I thought not. Instead I was the antihero in a black-and-white low-budget film by independent producer Stanley Kramer and written by his talented partner, writer Carl Foreman. It won me my first Oscar nomination, and made me a genuine star. That enabled me to start my own production company, Bryna, to make the films that no one else wanted to do, but that I considered important. Like “Paths of Glory,” with Stanley Kubrick; like “Spartacus” from a book by a blacklisted writer, Howard Fast. I hired the blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo under the name Sam Jackson. Against advice, I decided to put Dalton’s true name onscreen.

 

What advice do you have for up-and-coming actors?
You want to know what I wish I could tell my younger self? Don’t do your own stunts! I pay the price every day for my machismo derring-do. Two knee replacements, bad back, etc. But, then, I never anticipated I’d reach 98. I still can’t believe it, but I’m grateful to be here.

 

 

I've Made About 90 Feature Films, but These Are the Ones I'm Proudest Of

--Huffington Post December 9, 2014

Editor's note: For the release of Kirk Douglas' new book, Life Could Be Verse: Reflections on Love, Loss, and What Really Matters, HuffPost Entertainment asked the decorated actor to recall some of the fondest memories from his storied career. We sent Douglas a list of select films, and he graciously responded with a personal reflection on his work. Read on for what Douglas had to say of his 68 years in the business.

 

Over some 70 years, I made about 90 feature films, starting with The Strange Love of Martha Ivers in 1946 and ending with It Runs in the Family in 2003 -- a wonderful experience, because I got to work with my son Michael, my grandson Cameron and my first wife, Diana Dill. I have forgotten most of them, and so has the public. However, I am proud of the ones I will tell you about, especially those I made through my own production company Bryna. They include Paths of Glory, Spartacus, Seven Days in May, and my favorite of all, Lonely Are the Brave. A few films are sentimental favorites that mark meaningful times in my off-screen life and milestones in my rise to stardom. Others are meaningful to me because, while entertaining the public, they also gave insight into serious issues. I will tell you my choices.

 

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

Let's start with my first film, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, a film noir made at Paramount. You know, I never wanted to be anything but a New York stage actor, but that was a precarious career for a man with a young family. I was in a play called The Wind Is Ninety -- don't ask me what the title means -- when I got a visit backstage from an important Hollywood producer, Hal Wallis. My friend Lauren Bacall had urged him to see me when he was in New York because I had gotten good reviews. He offered me a job. I could not turn down a movie starring Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin. Besides, it was a better paycheck than I could get on Broadway. All across the country on the train, I memorized my part so I could hold my own with the seasoned film stars. I remember saying my lines perfectly during the first rehearsal. Pretty impressive, I thought, until I saw the way everyone was looking at me. I had learned Van Heflin's part instead of the role of the weak, alcoholic husband of Martha Ivers. How mortifying! My next humiliation was not far behind. The director told me to light a cigarette. I didn't smoke, but I obeyed. It made me dizzy and nauseous, and I ran to my dressing room to throw up. After the film wrapped, I went back to New York and got parts in a few more flops. So I became a film actor out of necessity, and soon I was working regularly in Hollywood -- as well as smoking four packs a day.

 

Champion (1949)

Champion was a turning point in my young career. I had an opportunity to make a big Technicolor picture at MGM called The Great Sinner starring Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck, and Lionel Barrymore. I turned it down to play Midge Kelly, a not-very-likeable boxer in a small independent film put together by young unknowns -- producer Stanley Kramer, writer Carl Foreman, and director Mark Robson. My agent was very unhappy. I was in pretty good shape, but I had never boxed. I didn't want them to use a body double, so I went into serious training with Mushy Callahan, an ex-welterweight champion. You know, it's hard to make a movie punch look real. In the scene where my opponent was to catch me with a faked uppercut as I bounced off the ropes, he actually knocked me out. Now that's movie realism! Champion got me a Best Actor nomination for an Oscar and made me a star. And that other film, The Great Sinner? It was a flop.

 

Ace in the Hole (1951)

To no one's surprise, I again played the self-serving bad guy in Billy Wilder's drama about a disgraced journalist trying to reinvent his big career in small-town Albuquerque. When a tunnel collapses outside a small town, he sees a big opportunity in his exclusive coverage of the man trapped below, convincing him to delay rescue for the sake of the headlines. My co-star was Jan Sterling, playing the the victim's scheming wife. In one scene I am supposed to choke her. Before the cameras rolled, I told Jan to let me know if I was being too rough. When she turned blue and went limp, I released her. "Why didn't you stop me?!"  I demanded when she came to. "I couldn't," she rasped, "because you were choking me." Ace in the Hole, redubbed The Big Carnival in America, was not a hit at the time, but it became a cult favorite. I loved working with Billy, who became a good friend.

 

The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)

Wasn't I lucky that Clark Gable turned down the role, since it earned me my second Academy nomination? Lana Turner played my beautiful discovery. We shot at MGM with Vincente Minnelli directing. One day I had a chat with Francis X. Bushman, who had a small part. Bushman had been a major star in the silents and talkies, but he had just faded away. Now I learned why. At the height of his fame, he inadvertently offended the all-powerful Louis B. Mayer by keeping him waiting a few minutes. Mayer, in turn, banned him from MGM and blackballed him in the industry. This was his first time on the lot in 25 years. Bushman's story gave me some useful insight into the ruthless, selfish character I was playing -- still another tough-guy antihero. I was doing well with these roles.

Act of Love (1953)

I don't know if this is a good film, but to me it's a great film because that's where I met my wife, Anne Buydens, to whom I have been married for 60 years. I write about our strange romance in Life Could Be Verse. Anne was hired to do publicity for Act of Love, and we became friends. I, of course, wanted more (she was beautiful and had a fantastic sense of humor), but she didn't want to be a movie star's latest fling. One evening I took her with me to a charity event at Cirque d'Hiver in Paris, in which French movie stars were the featured performers. I was known as "The Darling Brute" in French media, so the organizers asked me to participate. I went backstage, where they found something "appropriate" for me. Right after the elephant act, I came out -- still in my tuxedo -- with a broom and shovel to clean up the droppings. Anne laughed so hard that I knew I had won her over.

 

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

This was the first movie Walt Disney made with live characters. We were on a six-day-week shooting schedule, so Anne and I flew up to Las Vegas after work on Saturday to get married, took in Sinatra at the Sahara, and flew back to L.A. the next night. I played the banjo and sang in the film. I also recorded "Gotta Whale of a Tale," and it became a hit. It even topped Sinatra's latest record for a few weeks -- which I enjoyed teasing him about over the years. It became a song my kids and I liked to sing together. During a scene in It Runs in the Family where Michael, Cameron and I are fishing in a canoe, Michael suggested we warble it together. I enjoyed that.

 

The Indian Fighter (1955)

When I started Bryna, my own production company (named for my mother), this was our first picture. It was a Western shot in Oregon, and I offered my ex-wife Diana a good part. Anne was pregnant with our first son, Peter, but she readily agreed to have my older boys, Michael and Joel, stay with her in Beverly Hills while Diana and I were on location. To this day, we call Diana "our first wife" and remain good friends. The film did well, and the Bryna Company was on its way.

Lust for Life (1956)

I wanted to make Lust for Life at Bryna, but it turned out that MGM owned the rights. I still wanted to play Van Gogh, especially since John Houseman and Vincente Minnelli, my team from The Bad and the Beautiful, were attached. I loved being back in France, and we shot in all the places where Van Gogh had lived and painted. But it was also horrible. I became so immersed in his tortured life that it was hard to pull back. In makeup I looked like him, and he had been my age when he died. Sometimes I would reach my hand up to touch my ear to make sure it was still there. After its release, I was contacted by Marc Chagall to do his life story. I admired him greatly, but I never wanted to play another artist. My friend John Wayne was not happy with me playing Vincent. He said we owed it to our public to play only strong, tough characters. I told him that I would continue to play any role I considered interesting. Despite my difficulty in shedding the Van Gogh persona, I did eventually come back to myself. On the other hand, I don't think John (I never called him "Duke") ever dropped the role of John Wayne that he so carefully crafted for his life.

 

Paths of Glory (1957)

I had seen an interesting film called The Killing by a young director named Stanley Kubrick. I contacted him to see if he had any other projects. He gave me Paths of Glory, and I loved it even though I knew it would never be a commercial success. I got financing from United Artists, and we headed off to Germany to shoot around Munich. When I arrived, Stanley had completely rewritten the script. It was awful. He wanted to make it more commercial, he explained. As it was a Bryna film, I insisted we use the script I loved. I was right. It didn't make money, but it was a critical success. I found Stanley to be supremely talented but extremely difficult. With a bigger budget and a bigger payday on Spartacus, he became twice as difficult, but what a talent!

 

Spartacus (1960)

"I am Spartacus" is the most remembered line of the film and is often parodied. I used it as the title of my 2012 book about the making of the movie. Believe it or not, Stanley Kubrick hated the scene where all of Spartacus' men claim to be him. He didn't want to shoot it, but I insisted. After all, I was not only the star but also the producer who signed his paycheck. Our screenwriter was Dalton Trumbo, working under the pseudonym "Sam Jackson" because he was on Hollywood's notorious blacklist. What a shameful period that was, especially since we were all hypocrites, hiring the blacklisted to use their talents at reduced wages. I wanted Dalton to write The Last Cowboy, which Universal retitled Lonely Are the Brave, but I asked him to write Spartacus first. I was in a race to show a finished script to my dream cast of British actors -- Laurence Olivier, Peter Ustinov, and Charles Laughton -- before Yul Brynner, with a rival project called The Gladiators, could approach them. Spartacus was a demanding movie, and I was crucified not only on screen but off of it, by the likes of powerful columnist Hedda Hopper and the American Legion, for using a book written by Howard Fast, a Communist, and giving Dalton screen credit. But the public embraced it, especially after the popular new President John F. Kennedy came to see it in a Washington theater and then proceeded to praise it.

 

Lonely Are the Brave (1962)

As I have said, this is my favorite movie. I love the theme that if you try to be an individual, society will crush you. I play a modern-day cowboy still living by the code of the Old West. Dalton wrote a perfect screenplay -- one draft, no revisions. My character gets into a bar fight with a vicious one-armed man. He was actually Burt Lancaster's stand-in, who had lost his arm in the war. It was a tough shoot in and around Albuquerque -- high altitude, snow, fog and freezing rain in May! I didn't get along with the director very well; plus, he had no regard for safety. When we were shooting on a narrow ledge with a steep drop, he asked me to walk around my horse on the outside. I wanted to be on the inside against the wall, because the horse instinctively would protect itself. Even after I explained, he argued with me, but I had seen too many unnecessary accidents to agree. The best relationship I had on this film was with my horse, Whisky. Of course, the horse couldn't talk back.

Seven Days in May (1964)

I was advised that making this movie would be risky because it concerns an attempted military overthrow of the U.S. government. But I ran into President Kennedy in Washington at a fancy buffet dinner. He had loved the book and spent 20 minutes telling me why it would make a great film. I could have played either of two roles: the bad guy behind the takeover plot or the good guy who blows the whistle to the president. I sent the script to my pal "Boit" Lancaster, telling him to choose whichever role he wanted to play. I would take the other. I did enjoy playing a nice guy for a change. We needed a shot of me entering the Pentagon, and nothing but the real thing would look authentic. We stole the shot, concealing the cameras in a van parked across the street. I was dressed in my Marine colonel's uniform. The guard saluted me. I saluted back and walked in, waited a bit, and walked out. Seven Days in May had its first sneak preview the night I closed in the play of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which limped along for five months -- my final attempt to make it as a major Broadway star.

 

Bonus: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

And that brings me to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, a movie I neither produced nor starred in despite all my best efforts. My son Michael asked if he could take a crack at producing it, so I gave him the rights, not at all sure whether he would have any more luck than I did. Well, it opened to raves, and on Academy Awards night, the film won all five major Oscars. I couldn't have been prouder of Michael, even though he wouldn't let me play McMurphy. "You're too old," he said. And this was in 1975, some 40 years ago! I forgave him. Jack Nicholson was superb.

 

 

Kirk Turns 98!

Kirk Douglas turns 98 today, December 9 2014. Happy Birthday, Kirk!

Kirk Douglas proves a sublime master of rhyme on page and in person

--Los Angeles Times December 9, 2014

Kirk Douglas

Kirk Douglas may be one of the biggest actors of his era, with starring roles in 1960's "Spartacus," 1949's "Champion" and 1951's "Ace in the Hole." But on a recent crisp morning, he was having a grand time simply reciting his poetry by heart for an audience of one. With a twinkle of his blue eyes, he proclaimed:

Romance begins at 80

And I ought to know.

I live with a girl

Who will tell you so.

Douglas, who survived a near-fatal stroke in 1996 that affected his speech, has been a part of the Hollywood landscape since he made his film debut in the 1946 noir "The Strange Love of Martha Ivers." He earned three Oscar nominations for lead actor for "Champion," which made him a star, 1952's "The Bad and the Beautiful" and 1956's "Lust for Life," in which he played Vincent Van Gogh, and he received an honorary Oscar shortly after his stroke.

A savvy producer, he also helped to break the Communist blacklist in Hollywood when he insisted that blacklisted "Spartacus" screenwriter Dalton Trumbo receive screen credit.

 

These days, though Douglas walks with a cane and is on the frail side, he's sweet and full of good humor. He now wears his white hair pulled back into a ponytail.

A savvy producer, he also helped to break the Communist blacklist in Hollywood when he insisted that blacklisted "Spartacus" screenwriter Dalton Trumbo receive screen credit.

These days, though Douglas walks with a cane and is on the frail side, he's sweet and full of good humor. He now wears his white hair pulled back into a ponytail.

"I let it grow, and it grew so long someone said, 'Let's make a ponytail,'" Douglas said. "Do you think I'm good-looking?"

 Douglas has written several books since the publication in 1988 of his autobiography, "The Ragman's Son," and his latest is "Life Could Be Verse," which chronicles his "reflections on love, loss and what really matters." It was released Dec. 2, a week before his 98th birthday Tuesday.

The slim book includes poems he's written over the last seven decades, autobiographical stories and professional and family photographs.

"This is my last book," said Douglas, sitting in his favorite chair in the family room of the Beverly Hills home he shares with wife, Anne. The two met in Paris in 1953 when she was the publicist on his film "Act of Love."

"I think it is the best book I have ever written because I have done something I have never done before," Douglas said.

For years Douglas "hid" his poetic side. "But when you get to be 98, you begin to be brave," he said. "You get to be strong enough to be weak."

"Life Can Be Verse" is also a love letter to his wife.

"We've been married over 60 years and that's something," he said, breaking into a warm smile.

As a college student at St. Lawrence University, Douglas used poetry to get the attention of the girl with the flaming red hair who sat in front of him in class.

How oft have I sat behind thee

In awe and watched thy titian hair

Resplendent in the rays

Of morning's golden light

The poem worked. "We had two years," he said.

Douglas not only recited poetry during the interview but also broke out into song, remembering when he was cast in the landmark 1944 musical "On the Town." He was dismissed from the show when he couldn't reach the high notes in "Lonely Town."

"A town's a lonely town," Douglas started to croon. "When you pass through and there is no one waiting there for you."

Though his Broadway musical career never came to fruition ("such a disappointment because I loved that musical," he said), Douglas and frequent costar Burt Lancaster did three song-and-dance routines for the Oscars, he said. He also performed "A Whale of a Tale" in the 1954 Disney classic "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

"They made a commercial record of it," he noted with pride.

Some of his poems in the book are darker and brutally honest, especially "For Michael," which deals with his eldest son, Oscar-winning actor-producer Michael Douglas, with whom he has a close relationship.

"Am I a good father?" I asked my son

He took a pause, too long for me

I waited and waited for him to answer

And finally he said, "Ultimately"

"He never asked me for anything," said Douglas of his son when he was just starting out. "Once I said, 'Michael, I am your father, you can ask me.'"

 

As for his wife, Douglas said he's more in love with her than ever. "She usually sits there," he said, pointing to her spot. "I sit here. We talk about things that have happened. We call that the golden hour."