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 the blacklist: Why Hollywood showed so little courage

by Patrick Goldstein Los Angeles Times June 5, 2012

Kirk Douglas: Click for 'Spartacus' photos

 

For all his achievements, Kirk Douglas brags about only one thing — his age. In the middle of an interview the other day, the fabled star, who’s 95, suddenly waved away one of my questions to ask one of his own. “So tell me,” he said with a mischievous grin, seated in the living room of his Beverly Hills home in front of a magnificent Toulouse-Lautrec. “Am I the oldest actor you’ve ever interviewed?”

I fumbled for an answer, caught off guard by his directness. “That’s OK,” he said. “You probably haven’t talked to a 95-year-old author either, have you?”

Hollywood’s white-maned lion king had me there. Douglas has written a lively new memoir about one of his greatest triumphs. Titled “I Am Spartacus!” it recounts how Douglas helped break the midcentury anti-communist blacklist by secretly hiring Dalton Trumbo to write “Spartacus,” the historical epic that was directed by Stanley Kubrick and produced by Douglas and came out in October 1960.

BigpictureIn most history books, Otto Preminger gets the credit for breaking the blacklist, since he was the first to announce, in early 1960, that he’d hired Trumbo to write “Exodus” under his own name; the film was released in December that year. But Douglas makes a persuasive case that he was actually out in front, having agreed to give Trumbo screen credit for “Spartacus” in the fall of 1959, long before “Exodus” started filming.

Staring back into history from our time, when actors and filmmakers are free to express all sorts of spectacularly preposterous political viewpoints, it’s hard to imagine there was a time when your political beliefs could destroy your career. But that’s what happened in Hollywood in the late 1940s and early 1950s after the nation was swept up in an intense anti-communist fervor.

Looking for headlines, the House Committee on Un-American Activities called a host of showbiz talent to testify about their associations, real or otherwise, with the Communist Party. Trumbo, in fact, was a member of the Communist Party from 1943 to 1948. When a group of writers and directors who became known as the Hollywood 10 refused to cooperate, the men, who included Trumbo, were cited for contempt of Congress and eventually sent to prison. In November 1947, just days after the 10 were cited, the Motion Picture Assn. of America announced that everyone who’d refused to cooperate would lose their job — the studios feared that the public would shy away from cinemas if suspected or admitted communists were involved with the productions.

That was the beginning of the blacklist, which effectively ended the careers of a host of notable writers, actors and filmmakers. Douglas admits that even he was silenced by fear. When MGM offered him a plum leading role in the 1956 film “Lust for Life,” based on the life of Vincent Van Gogh, he was forced by MGM to sign a loyalty oath to get the part. “It was terrible,” he told me. “It was vanity that made me do it. Oh boy, did I want to play that part. It was really insulting, but I did it. It’s what everyone had to do.”

By the late 1950s, the climate in the country had changed. Sen. Joe McCarthy, who had been the most visible anti-communist crusader, had been censured by the Senate in late 1954. Still, Hollywood studios continued to enforce the blacklist, even though many of the top blacklisted writers found a way to make a living by either using pseudonyms or hiring other writers as “fronts” who put their names on the original writers’ scripts.

Trumbo, for example, using the pseudonym Robert Rich, won a screenwriting Oscar in 1957 for his script for “The Brave One,” causing a stir when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences couldn’t locate the mysterious Mr. Rich to present him with the award.

By the time Douglas had acquired the rights to the novel “Spartacus” by Howard Fast — also a blacklisted writer — the actor had no trouble finding Trumbo. He was busily cranking out scripts, even though he was being paid a fraction of what he’d made before he went to prison.

“Dalton loved to write and talk while he was in the bathtub, so I’d go to see him and he’d be in the tub, with a parrot on his shoulder,” Douglas recalled. “He was unbelievably talented and, boy, was he fast. If he wrote something that didn’t work, he’d throw it away and write something even better.”

The top executives at Universal didn’t find out about Trumbo (who’d written the script under the pseudonym of Sam Jackson) until Douglas went public with the news. By then, it was too late to stop him, especially since Douglas’ agent, Lew Wasserman — who did know — was already in negotiations to purchase the Universal lot.

Keeping Dalton’s identity under wraps was just one of the challenges Douglas was facing on “Spartacus.” He had to deal with many of the same business realities producers deal with today. “Spartacus” was sped into production, for example, because a rival studio was moving ahead with a similar historical epic called “Gladiators.”

After 11 days of shooting, Douglas fired the original director, Anthony Mann, because Universal, the studio releasing the film, was upset that the picture was behind schedule and over budget. When the studio announced Mann’s departure, it used the same language we hear from today’s studios: creative differences.

After the film was completed, Douglas even had to battle the censors at the Production Code Administration (PCA), the forerunner of today’s MPAA ratings board. The code was just as arbitrary as is today’s ratings system. Douglas says he was ordered to eliminate the use of the word “damn” and provide the film’s slave characters with less revealing loincloths. The PCA also insisted that Douglas cut any dialogue suggesting that Crassus, played by Laurence Olivier, is attracted — gasp! — to both men and women, saying “any implication that Crassus is a sex pervert is unacceptable.”

The censors were especially unhappy with a scene where Crassus provocatively asked his body slave, played by Tony Curtis, if he had a taste for oysters and snails. Douglas says that the censors actually considered allowing him to keep the scene if he substituted artichokes and truffles for oysters and snails, but he was eventually forced to cut it.

Many of us today have a tendency to romanticize the old studio moguls, especially when compared to the bland corporate chieftains of today. Not Douglas. “When it came to the blacklist, they were the guilty parties,” he says. “They loved to push around writers and actors,” but they didn’t have the guts to stand up to Washington. “They all caved in when they could’ve taken a united stand and stopped it.”

In the end, what really mattered was the bottom line. For all of Douglas’ courage, the real end of the blacklist came when, despite scattered protests, Variety reported in late December 1960 that “Spartacus” and “Exodus,” the two films that openly gave credit to a blacklisted screenwriter, were No. 1 and No. 2 at the box office that month.

After Hollywood saw that the public had no problem paying good money to see movies written by an ex-communist, it found its lost courage in a hurry. When I asked Douglas if he thought people in Hollywood were more courageous today, he fell silent. Finally, he said, “Some people are. But everyone? I’m not so sure.”

 

EMMYS: Ballots Go Out, Race Heats Up As Spartacus Meets Spartacus At TV Academy

Pete Hammond DEADLINE.COM June 5,2012

Emmy voters received official ballots in the mail today with instructions that they must be returned by 5 PM on June 28. However, voting can’t actually take place until ballot listings are posted at a secure Emmy address online after 6 PM Monday, June 11th. With the race for nominations (they will be announced July 19) moving into the home stretch, campaigning is heating up — particularly at the Goldenson Theatre of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, where almost nightly screenings/panels with TV casts and creators are taking place. None are endorsed or sponsored by the Academy itself. Studios and networks rent out the space to give their shows the aura of Emmy but on invitations must specifically stress that it is not an Academy official activity. These events have been happening with regularity since April and May and will continue right up to the close of voting. Among those campaigning in June are CBS’ Blue Bloods (June 5),The Glee Project (June 7), Paul Simon’s Graceland Journey: Under African Skies (June 8), Leverage (June 9) and a Grammys event  (June 11). On June 10th, Matt Weiner will fly back from the southern location of his feature directorial debut to appear with virtually the entire cast of 4-time Emmy-winning drama series Mad Men as they participate in a screening/discussion/reception for the season finale of the show two hours before it airs on AMC.

But none of these are as unique as an event last night at the Academy, where Spartacus met Spartacus. Although the blood-soaked, sex-drenched Starz series Spartacus:Vengeance isn’t necessarily high up on most pundits lists of potential drama series Emmy nominees (it should compete in technical categories, though) it got a high-profile boost when the original Spartacus himself, 95 year-old Kirk Douglas, joined series star Liam McIntyre and creator Steven S. DeKnight for what Starz billed as a “Once In A Lifetime Event: Celebrating Spartacus”, which consisted of a 40-minute onstage discussion (I moderated) and reception. It drew a capacity crowd and some had to be turned away.

Douglas clearly stole the show recounting tales from the making of the 1960 film which he has also done in a new book, his 10th, I Am Spartacus! Making A Film, Breaking The Blacklist coming out next week. George Clooney did the forward. It is such a riveting read it could make a great movie itself. Doulgas told me along with his first book, The Ragman’s Son, which came out a quarter of a century ago this is the one of which he is most proud. It is a remarkable account of not only the film classic’s rocky road to production but also a real page-turner about the breaking of the Hollywood Blacklist of the ’50s and Douglas’ key role in it when he hired blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo to pen the Spartacus script (working under the pseudonym Sam Jackson). Douglas then got the studio to agree to give Trumbo full credit on the film, a major breakthough that ended a sad and shameful chapter in Hollywood history. In 1991, Douglas recounted that the Writers Guild of America gave him a special award for breaking the blacklist. “When I got home after the ceremony I was in bed with my wife and I said, ‘Honey I think I did a wonderful thing’ and she said ‘yes, but what have you done lately?’ “, he said to big laughs.

The actor, who literally ran out onstage to a huge standing ovation, addressed the problems he still has with his speech. “Fifteen years ago I had a stroke and lost my speech. What is an actor to do when you can’t talk? Wait for silent pictures to come back?” he said, getting another big laugh with the obvious  reference to the success of this year’s big Oscar winner The Artist. Douglas, whose comic timing is impeccable even at 95, also struck a poignant note when he reminisced about his late friend Burt Lancaster. “Getting old is lonely. So many of your friends disappear and you have only a memory of them,” he said before once again lightening the tone of the evening.

Whether the night did anything to increase the Emmy chances of  Spartacus: Vengeance, it didn’t really matter. This was a night that belonged to the man who so memorably played him 52 years ago and has lived to tell the tale again. As McIntyre, a newcomer who just finished his first season as Spartacus, told me on his way out, “This is a night I will never forget”.

Kirk Comments on Megan Morey Interview

In my 95 years I've had many, many interviews.  On April 4, Megan Morey, 13 years old, the daughter of my wife's assistant, interviewed me.  Here is the result.  I think it's much better than many interviews I have received in the past.

KIRK DOUGLAS INTERVIEW BY MEGAN MOREY

Kirk Douglas is a legendary movie star.  He has starred in almost 90 movies including Spartacus and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  As well as being in movies he has also been on Broadway.  He is currently living in Beverly Hills with his wife Anne Douglas.

Rejection

Before I started asking my questions he told me that he has always discouraged his sons from getting into acting.  With his son Michael Douglas, it obviously didn’t work so well.  He said he did this because it is a business filled with rejection, and they aren’t just rejecting something you wrote or did, they are rejecting you.  He said that some people say that “actors are people who like rejection.”

First Inspiration

I asked him when he first realized he wanted to go into theater, and he said it all started in the 2nd grade when he was in a school play.  He played a shoemaker who at night would go to sleep, and then the elves would come and do the work.  He said when he finished everyone applauded and he loved the sound.  “I have been searching for that sound ever since.”

First Job

After he graduated college he studied at a Dramatic Arts academy, where many other successful actors like Katharine Hepburn have studied, for two years.  His first job on Broadway was an offstage echo.  He had originally auditioned for the part of the soldier, but they gave the part to someone else.  His only line was when the soldier, the part he was denied, is saying goodbye to the trees and he says “yo ho!” and then Mr.Douglas would echo from offstage “yo ho”.  In another play he came in at the end of the second act as a singing telegram.

Audition Story

I asked him about his auditions and he told me his favorite audition story.  He was working on Kiss and Tell when the producer asked him if he could sing.  He said he didn’t know and the producer asked if he could sing loud.  He told him there was an audition for a musical at 3:00 that day and that he should come.  He went and when it was his turn he walked up onto the stage and in the audience was Leonard Bernstein, the writers, the producers, and the leading lady in the play.  They asked him what he was going to sing and he said “I’m Red Hot Henry Brown” only the pianist didn’t know it and he offered to sing it a capella.  They liked it and they gave him the part and another song to practice.  Only the song had a high part that he couldn’t reach.  The whole situation was so stressful he got laryngitis and they gave the part to someone else.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

I asked Mr. Douglas what his biggest role on Broadway was and he said he was in about twelve plays before he started doing movies.  Then when he was a big movie star he decided he wanted to go back on Broadway because his real dream had always been to be a star on the stage.  He bought the rights to a book he liked, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”, and paid someone to write a script for it.  He put it on Broadway and it ran for six months, but was not a big hit.  Then he tried to make it into a movie, but couldn’t get the funding for it.  Then ten years later his son, Michael Douglas, asked if he could do something with the project.  Mr. Douglas didn’t think it would go anywhere since he had failed to make it, but within a year Michael had the funding, the cast, and a director, they made the movie and practically everyone in it won Oscars.  He had thought that he would play his role in it, but he was too old and they gave the part to Jack Nicholson.  Even Mr. Douglas admits that Jack Nicholson was better than he would have been if he had played the part.

Rehearsal Process

I asked him what the rehearsal process was like and he said that after everyone is cast everyone sits in a big room and reads through the script.  This helps everyone get to know the story and their character.  Then they get up on their feet and start blocking scenes.  After that you start memorizing your lines and if you have a scene with another person you practice with them.  “If you have a beautiful co-star you rehearse a lot.”

Atmosphere of the Theatre

I asked what the atmosphere at the theatre is like and he said it’s a big, dark, cavern and it’s actually rather spooky with a single light bulb up on the stage.  “But in the evening, filled with people, it comes to life and becomes a beautiful wonderland of make-believe.”

Responsibilities

I asked him about the main responsibilities of the actors and the director.  He said the actor’s job is to memorize their lines, show up on time, and to perform well.  The director is almost like a father.  While the actors are more concerned with their own characters, the director has to blend it all into a play.  He is a very important element.

Hardest Part

I asked him what the hardest part of putting together a production is and he said that it depends.  If you have good actors, a good director, and a good subject it is easier.  Some actors don’t do well with the nervousness and a lot of them even throw up before performances.  And lots of actors can get overemotional and that makes it difficult as well, but if you succeed you make a lot of money.

Success

I asked him what he thought made a play a success and he said if the people like it it’s a success.  If they don’t it’s a flop.  I asked if he has had any successes and he says that he was in a few successful plays, but he has done very well in the movie business so he can’t really complain.

Favorite Part

As my final question, I asked what his favorite part of putting on a play was and he said that he did it for the applause and for the laughter. He always wanted to see his name up in lights on Broadway and now he has it up in lights here in Hollywood at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

 

 

'The Convert' at Kirk Douglas Theater

The cast of

Harold Surratt, from left, Warner Joseph Miller, LeRoy McClain, Pascale Armand and Cheryl Lynn Bruce in Danai Gurira's "The Convert." (T. Charles Erickson / April 22, 2012)

Danai Gurira’s new play, “The Convert,” set in the 1890s in what would later become Zimbabwe, tells the story of a young African woman, Jekesai (the stunning, graceful Pascale Armand), who converts to Catholicism to escape an arranged marriage, grows devout and finds herself at the center of a bloody cultural upheaval.

To sum Gurira up efficiently would require more backslashes than a URL. Born in Ohio to African academics, she was raised partly in America and partly in Zimbabwe. She's an Obie-winning playwright ("Eclipsed," "In the Continuum") and an actress both on the stage ("Joe Turner’s Come and Gone" on Broadway) and on TV ("Treme"). Certainly one of the most diverse living showbiz professionals, with her upcoming role in AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” she is poised to conquer the undead too.

Somehow she also found time to write this extraordinarily ambitious play. Commissioned by the Center Theatre Group and co-produced with Princeton, N.J.’s McCarter Theatre Center and Chicago’s Goodman Theatre, where it has already had critically acclaimed runs, "The Convert" has arrived at its final stop, the CTG’s Kirk Douglas Theatre.

It's not frothy entertainment. Although illuminated by gentle humor and warm characterizations, the three-hour-long “Convert” is intense, harrowing and flatteringly demanding. Gurira refuses to condescend to her audience, either in her storytelling — entire scenes are performed in the Shona dialect — or in her moral position, offering no clear-cut villains or heroes. Brought to life by Emily Mann’s subtle direction, a splendid set by Daniel Ostling and a variety of astonishing performances, the play is compelling in spite of an unpersuasive, melodramatic finale.

“The iron claw of colonization is bracing to form a fist over Mashona and Matabeleland of southern Africa in 1896,” begins the playwright’s helpful if portentous program note. And “the white intruders” would be the most obvious candidates for bad guys here — if there were any onstage. Instead, fascinatingly, Gurira has chosen to represent the British only as they are reflected by her seven native characters, who variously embrace, tolerate and reject their colonists’ imposed beliefs.

The action unfolds in the house of black missionary Chilford (LeRoy McClain), who converted to Catholicism as a child and dreams of becoming a priest. He dresses like a Victorian and speaks in an idiosyncratic English peppered with ineptly pretentious exclamations such as “Goodness of graciousness!” and “Be of silence!” He has a position with the British Native Commission, upholstered furniture and a silver tea set. Despite his pomposity, in McClain’s touching portrayal, he is sincere, well-meaning, a bit of a simpleton in his refusal to acknowledge trouble even though converts are “on the dwindle” and his tribesmen have begun to call him bafu (white man’s native, traitor).

Chilford’s housekeeper, Mai Tamba (Cheryl Lynn Bruce), pays lip service to Catholicism to placate him (“Hail Mary, full of ghosts,” she grudgingly intones) and to persuade him to hire her marriage-fleeing niece, Jekesai. (“She want to know about God in hewen too!” she lies, knowing Chilford can’t resist the hope of a convert.) In secret she worships her ancestors and hides pagan amulets around the house as she dusts.

Mai Tamba may seem like pure comic relief in the opening scenes, but she is genuinely upset when Jekesai, whom Chilford renames Ester and trains as his protégée, throws herself wholeheartedly into the new religion. Bruce’s face is worth watching whenever she is watching the others; her eyes harden from cunning to threatening as Ester’s faith increases the tension among her relatives and Chilford’s Anglophile friends.

These roles offer less opportunity for subtlety, and they occasionally feel a bit like mouthpieces for particular historical types. Harold Surratt is funny as Ester’s surly, drunken uncle, and Zainab Jah is vividly entertaining as Prudence, the highly educated, possibly anachronistic fiancée of Chilford’s roguish friend Chancellor (Kevin Mambo). As the plot moves inexorably toward tragedy, the characters grow more and more agitated, especially Ester's cousin, Tamba (Warner Joseph Miller), and Chilford; McClain is obliged to play the final hour and a half through a rictus of bewildered horror, with a chronic sob in his voice. At this point the play belongs to the luminous Armand, who somehow remains fully believable even when Ester’s actions strain credulity.



An Unforgettable Evening: Cancer Research Event

EventNow reports the 15th Annual benefit for EIF’s women’s cancer research fund and we are talking about no other than An Unforgettable Evening gala which was an amazing event for an amazing cause.

Cancer it the number one illness in the world that strikes millions of people’s every year and breast cancer hits thousands of women every day, so this cause was to help funds to assist in research and helping in finding a cure.

The venue that hosted this great event was The Beverly Hilton Hotel and guests like Lisa Kudrow, Rihanna, Lori Loughlin, Martin Short, Sheryl Crow, Rita Wilson, Steven Spielberg, Kirk Douglas, Steve Tyrell, Steve Tisch, Stephanie Murray, Barbara Davis, Amber Valetta, etc. and many others walked the red carpet and posed for their pictures to be taken by the onsite photographers.

The event was amazing and the performances were even better.  The onsite bartending staff was preparing nonstop cocktails according to the guests liking and the wait staff was passing them around along with appetizers that the onsite catering staff had prepared. The onsite catering staff had also prepared a delicious sit down dinner for them to enjoy as the festivities were on their way. The performance was great and how wouldn’t it be when you have a star like Rihanna hit the stage and sing every single piece of her songs that each and every one is a hit single.

One part of the festivities is to honor individuals with their endless fight to find a cure against breast cancer and this year the honor and the award went to singer Sheryl Crow who herself is a cancer survivor and has not stopped to help raise funds to find a cure for this illness and raise awareness.

This event is hosted every year, so we cannot wait for another year to pass by and see how all of it will take place next year.