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 "Reflections" and "Activities" posts.

Clicking 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.

Clicking 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.

Clicking the "Kirk Douglas Theatre" button, you'll get the latest news about productions at the theatre, named to honor Kirk Douglas and established as the newest and most intimate of the Center Theatre Group's spaces, which include the Ahmanson and Mark Taper Theatres at the Los Angeles Music Center.

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

Kirk Doulgas's new book, written with his wife Anne, Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter, and a Lifetime in Hollywood is now available. This link will enable you to order a copy, and have part of the proceeds go to the work of The Douglas Foundation.

kirkannebook

Film legend Kirk Douglas and Anne Buydens, his wife of nearly sixty-three years, look back on a lifetime filled with drama both on and off the screen. Sharing priceless correspondence with each other as well as the celebrities and world leaders they called friends, Kirk and Anne is a candid portrayal of the pleasures and pitfalls of a Hollywood life lived in the public eye. 

Compiled from Anne's private archive of letters and photographs, this is an intimate glimpse into the Douglases' courtship and marriage set against the backdrop of Kirk's screen triumphs, including The VikingsLust For LifePaths of Glory, and Spartacus. The letters themselves, as well as Kirk and Anne's vivid descriptions of their experiences, reveal remarkable insight and anecdotes about the legendary figures they knew so well, including Lauren Bacall, Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Elizabeth Taylor, John Wayne, the Kennedys, and the Reagans. Filled with photos from film sets, private moments, and public events, Kirk and Anne details the adventurous, oftentimes comic, and poignant reality behind the glamour of a Hollywood life-as only a couple of sixty-two years (and counting) could tell it.

Kirk Douglas on "Spartacus" at Last 70MM Film Festival

Published on Aug 17, 2012 by Motion Picture Academy

Actor/executive producer Kirk Douglas gets a big audience reception and discusses the making of "Spartacus," with moderator Pete Hammond and Academy President Howard Koch at The Last 70mm Film Festival screening on August 13, 2012.

To see a video,click here: Kirk Douglas Discusses Spartacus at Motion Picture Academy

 

Kirk Douglas Is Spartacus at Academy Screening

--from Huffington Post, August 14, 2012

Last night at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) they screened a new 70 mm print of Spartacus, the 1960 historical drama about the first Century B.C. Roman slave who led an uprising against the Empire, a film which won four Academy Awards. Producer/Star Kirk Douglas, 95, was present with wife Anne, and engaged in a vigorous question-and-answer session with Peter Hammond prior to the screening, ending with Douglas proclaiming the signature speech from the movie, "I Am Spartacus." At which point new Academy President Hawk Koch (don't you love that name) proclaimed on stage, "I Am Spartacus," only to have retiring Academy President Tom Sherak shriek from the audience, "I Am Spartacus," followed by every male member of the audience rising and screaming, "I Am Spartacus." It was exhilarating and fun.

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Kirk Douglass as Spartacus. Photo courtesy of AMPAS
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A young Tony Curtis on the set with Kirk Douglas. Photo courtesy of AMPAS

I have a particular interest in this film because it was based upon a novel written by a close friend, Howard Fast, who I met in the early fifties when I optioned the film rights to his Freedom Road novel for Sidney Poitier to star in the drama about former slaves during Reconstruction. Fast told me he had started writing Spartacus in prison in '51; he was serving a three-month sentence for Contempt of Congress, refusing to name the contributors to a fund for a home for orphans of Spanish Civil War veterans (Eleanor Roosevelt was one). Howard self-published the novel and proudly boasted to me that he had sold almost all of the 50,000 copies of Spartacus, which he had printed. Later, in '58, Crown Publishing came out with a regular edition of the book and broke the literary blacklist. When I was production head of Cinerama and we made the epic How The West Was Won, we hired Howard years later to write the television scripts for that series. He died in 2003 in Connecticut, still a fiery left-wing rebel and stalwart friend. His son, novelist Jonathan, married writer Erika Jong and their daughter, Mollie, is a noted novelist. Must be in their genes.

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Peter Ustinov and Charles Laughton, with friends, in a scene from the film. AMPAS photo

I remember when novelist Fast was hired by Kirk Douglas, whose company had optioned the film rights to the novel in '57, to do the first draft of the script. Kirk and producer Edward Lewis had optioned film rights to the book and when his option expired, he extended it for one dollar on the condition that Fast could write the screenplay. Fast was having difficulties writing it and was somewhat irate when he was fired by Kirk in favor of Dalton Trumbo. Trumbo, one of the Hollywood Ten, had been blacklisted by the movie industry and was writing scripts (Roman Holiday, The Brave One) under the name of Sam Jackson when Kirk decided to use him and bravely put his name on the screenplay.

At a dinner party I attended years later, hosted by Anne and Kirk (where I first met my dear friend Dinah Shore), Kirk told us that he had optioned Spartacus because he had been overlooked in favor of Charlton Heston for the lead in William Wyler's Ben-Hur. Again, my personal recollection enters into the narrative because director Stanley Kubrick lived just up Central Park West in Manhattan from my office at 50 CPW and we had become friends via his first producer, Jimmy Harris, who had jointly optioned Pretty Maids All In a Row with me. Kubrick would wander down the street with his camera 'round his neck and spend hours photographing my two pet squirrel monkeys. (See my Huffington article, "Why Monkeys Don't Make Good Pets.") After David Lean turned down an offer to direct, the first director of Spartacus, Anthony Mann, hired by Universal Studios, was fired after a week's shooting of the opening quarry scenes (at Death Valley, Nevada) and Kirk hired the 30-year old Stanley Kubrick to come in. They had worked together on Stanley's first film, Paths of Glory. (Remember those scenes of Kirk plodding through the muddy trenches?) Kubrick read the script on one weekend and resumed shooting the next Monday. All of the film's 167 days was shot in California (San Simeon, Thousand Oaks, the Universal Studio) except for the final battles sequence in Spain, which involved 8,000 Spanish Army troops.

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Kirk Douglas and director Stanley Kubrick on set. Photo from Douglas' personal collection.

Fast kept me informed abut the turmoil on the set, as Kubrick and Trumbo clashed repeatedly on their views about the roles. I won't go into detail about the plot, but you will recall it is the tale of a slave-turned-gladiator who leads a rebellion against the Roman general Crassus, played by Sir Laurence Olivier. Peter Ustinov won a Supporting Oscar for his role as the slave dealer and Alex North was nominated for his musical score, Robert Lawrence for his editing, while cinematographer Russell Metty won for his stunning look. Tony Curtis played the young Sicilian slave who leaves his master and joins Spartacus, ending with a battle against his leader. There was a subtle homosexual subplot here involving Olivier and Curtis in a bathing sequence, where the patrician attempts to seduce his slave by the analogy of "eating oysters" and "eating snails" to express his opinion that sexual preference is a matter of taste rather than morality. Wikipedia details that this scene was cut from the original release and when it was restored, Olivier's soundtrack was missing... so Anthony Hopkins was brought in to mime the original dialogue. I am indebted to the Academy's prolific and energetic program producer, Randy Haberkamp (a whirlwind of smart ambition and execution), for many incidental facts about the film, including that Kirk's legendary agent, Lew Wasserman, sent the Trumbo script to clients Peter Ustinov and Charles Laughton and enticed them into the film. He also told me that the original German actress who was picked to play the slave girl, Varinia, Spartacus' love interest, was replaced by Stanley with the lovely and talented Jean Simmons.

I am grateful to Wikipedia for also informing me that the film, with its final budget of $12 million and cast of 10,500, was the most successful in Universal's history to date, only to be superseded a decade later by Airport. They said that President-elect John F. Kennedy crossed picket lines to see the movie and helped to end the blacklisting.

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In the climactic scene, you will recall that the recaptured slaves are all asked to identify Spartacus in exchange for leniency... and one after another they each proclaim themselves to be Spartacus, knowing they will share his fate of cruxification by so doing. Resonances of the political environment of that era, when so-called Communist sympathizers would not identify their fellows. So, yes, I too am Spartacus!

Kirk Douglas Is Spartacus in More Ways Than One

--from USA Today August 14, 2012

I've seen it,'' Kirk Douglas told the crowd before the screening of 'Spartacus.' ''It's a good picture.

There is only one Spartacus.

But at Monday night's screening of this 1960 historical epic, the entire sold-out Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences audience jumped to its feet as the film's star and executive producer, Kirk Douglas, took the stage.

Many raised their fists in the air, shouting the iconic line from the film: "I am Spartacus."

Douglas, 95, who played the slave who led a revolt against the corrupt Roman Empire in the Oscar-winning film, said he had never seen a greeting like that before. "But I like it," he said, beaming.

The academy event, part of "The Last 70mm Film Festival," was centered on a new print of the Stanley Kubrick-directed film, which also starred Laurence Olivier, Tony Curtis, and Peter Ustinov.

But when Douglas sauntered onto the stage under his own power wearing a casual suit and Vans sneakers, the event turned into a tribute to the legendary actor.

"When you're 95, you don't look forward," said Douglas, still a nimble interview despite the speech effects of a severe stroke in 1996. "You look backward and take inventory."

Most of the inventory Douglas covered on Monday — and during a lively interview at his Beverly Hillshome before the event — concerned the making of the film covered in his 10th book, I Am Spartacus: Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist (Open Road, 2012).

Douglas, who owned his own movie production company at the time, worked with Dalton Trumbo, a writer who had spent a year in jail and had been blacklisted during the McCarthy era. At first, Trumbo wrote by his stage name, Sam Jackson.

But Douglas and the filmmakers ensured that Trumbo received a screenwriting credit for his role in the movie.

"I was young enough to be impulsive, so I used his name on the credits," Douglas said. "The sky didn't fall, but the blacklist was over."

"The blacklist was a terrible time," he added. "It wrecked the lives of so many people."

Though critics have said Douglas' role in Trumbo's return from the blacklist was overstated, it earned him a special award from the Writers Guild of America in 1991. More recently, George Clooney praised the actor in the foreword to Douglas' book.

"Kirk Douglas is many things," Clooney wrote. "But he is, first and foremost, a man of extraordinary character. The kind that's formed when the stakes are high."

Douglas warned that the McCarthy days are not too far gone.

"It was more divisive during that time," he said. "Fear is a terrible thing. It makes you do awful things. Now it's not communists, but fear of terrorists."

But on Monday, he was able to laugh about some of the old times, even how studio executives were concerned about the length of the loincloths in the movie. He also laughed about asking his son Michael Douglas to help out with his latest book.

"When I asked Michael to do the audio version, he said, 'You mean you couldn't get George Clooney?' "

Douglas left before the movie started to catch a celebratory dinner with Michael and his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones. "I've seen it," Kirk Douglas told the crowd. "It's a good picture."

Kirk Douglas Still a Political Gladiator

--from Variety and the Chicago Tribune, August 13, 2012

At 95, some 15 years after a stroke left him battling a speech impediment, Kirk Douglas worries about making himself understood.

He has reason to worry -- not because he has difficulty speaking, but because he still has so much to say.

"The blacklist period was so divisive in the country, much like the period now," he said. "For example, years ago McCarthy was shouting about communists in the Congress, and right now we have Allan West, a representative from Florida, saying there are communists in Congress. And when you say 'Name them,' he refuses. That's fear-mongering.

"And you have (Michele) Bachmann criticizing the Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, who I think is doing a very good job, because she has a Muslim assistant, who (Bachmann) thinks is like a terrorist. And that's unsubstantiated.

"So in many ways, when I made 'Spartacus' the climate was similar to the climate we're having now. And what I mean by that is, there are too many Republicans, too many Democrats, and not enough Americans."

Douglas tells more about the blacklist era in his book "I Am Spartacus! Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist," and will appear onstage in a Q&A ahead of a screening of the picture at the Academy's Goldwyn Theater tonight, part of the Acad's "Last 70mm Film Festival" series.

The screen legend met with Variety in the living room of his Beverly Hills home on Friday. He entered briskly, wearing blue track pants, leather moccasins and a white long-sleeved polo. His hair is white now, his shoulders are slightly stooped, his hands are gnarled and wizened. He doesn't sound like the star audiences remember. But there's no mistaking that face. He's still Kirk Douglas.

"When you get to be 95, first of all you're surprised," he said. "Jesus. With the pacemaker, stroke, new knees, I'm a battered 95. But you start looking back. Looking forward, you know your final destination. So you keep taking inventory of your life. And one of those fascinating parts of my life, to me, was making 'Spartacus.'?"

One of the things that still inflames Douglas is the hypocrisy of those years, when writers and actors with suspected communist ties, or those who refused to name others before Congress, were banned from work in the U.S. movie industry.

"I knew so many people whose lives were ruined. One committed suicide," he said. But he recounts in the book that when he revealed to his agent, Lew Wasserman, that he had hired blacklisted scribe Dalton Trumbo to write "Spartacus" under a pseudonym, Wasserman said, "I know."

In fact, by the time Douglas decided to buck the system and push for Trumbo to get his own name on "Spartacus," it had been an open secret for years that blacklisted writers were working -- but they had to write under pseudonyms, and for greatly reduced fees.

"The studio heads had too much power," said Douglas. "They could have fought people like McCarthy and the others in Washington, but they caved in and they established the blacklist.

"Now they don't have that power, but they have become too much like big business. At least in my day, I think the studio heads tried to make some good pictures, and I think they succeeded in making a lot more good pictures than we make today."

Trumbo, the highest-paid writer in Hollywood before he was consigned to the blacklist, emerges as one of the heroes of Douglas' book, especially in the critical period after helmer Stanley Kubrick screened his first rough cut of "Spartacus."

"Trumbo hated him," said Douglas of the director, "and Kubrick hated Trumbo. Trumbo wrote an 80-page letter to Kubrick, about how Kubrick wanted to make a 'small Spartacus,' and he wanted to make a 'large Spartacus.'?"

Trumbo's view carried the day, and arguably saved the picture.

But Universal didn't entirely embrace the result. The red-baiting years still had the studio brass nervous about releasing anything that seemed to advocate revolution, so large chunks of the movie's politics were neutered.

Part of the drama of getting the movie made were clashes among Universal, Trumbo, Douglas -- who was both star and producer -- and Kubrick, Douglas' hand-picked director.

"I was one of the first to start a production company," he said, "and that changed everything, because it's hard to be the boss and also the star. That's not a good combination. Kubrick certainly didn't like it."

Douglas said that even though the country's political climate is similar today to the bad old days, the climate in Hollywood is different.

"I admire so many of the stars for doing such wonderful things -- George Clooney in Africa, Sean Penn -- and they really give of themselves. And Hollywood is the best ambassador to the world, because they love Hollywood pictures. And when a Hollywood star goes out in the world, he's not a Republican or a Democrat, he's an American."

Douglas rarely watches movies now, including his own. But as part of his research for the book, he watched "Spartacus" again for the first time in 50 years.

What surprised him?

"That it was such a good picture. I took it for granted then, but now I realize that I had such a powerhouse (cast): Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, Jean Simmons, Tony Curtis played a small part ... and Kirk Douglas."

"I think I would cast me again to play that part."

SPARTACUS To Screen As Final Film In The Academy’s “The Last 70mm Film Festival” August 13; Kirk Douglas Scheduled To Appear

--August 7, 2012 on Netflix.com

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will present a new 70mm print of the 1960 historical drama “Spartacus” for the final screening in its series "The Last 70mm Film Festival" on Monday, August 13, at 7 p.m. at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The evening also will welcome actor and producer Kirk Douglas, who played the title character in the film, and Pete Hammond as moderator for the onstage discussion.

Based on the novel by Howard Fast, the film tells the story of the historical figure Spartacus, a slave-turned-gladiator who leads a rebellion against the Romans, going head to head with Crassus, played by Sir Laurence Olivier. The film won four Academy Awards®, including Actor in a Supporting Role (Peter Ustinov), Color Art Direction (Alexander Golitzen, Eric Orbom; Set Decoration: Russell A. Gausman, Julia Heron), Color Cinematography (Russell Metty), and Color Costume Design (Valles, Bill Thomas). It also received nominations for Film Editing (Robert Lawrence) and Music – Music score of a dramatic or comedy picture (Alex North).

Tickets for “Spartacus” are now sold out. A standby line will form on the day of the event, and standby numbers will be assigned starting at approximately 5:30 p.m. Any available tickets will be distributed shortly before the program begins. Ticket holders should plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before the start of the event to ensure a seat in the theater. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. The Samuel Goldwyn Theater is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For the latest pre-show details call (310) 247-3600 or visit www.oscars.org.