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.

We Are Spartacus

The following appeared in The Huffington Post of June 12, 2012

Kirk Douglas' tenth book, "I Am Spartacus! Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist," is being released today by Open Road Integrated Media.

When you reach 95, after you get over your surprise, you start looking back. I've been thinking a lot about my parents, Russian immigrants who came to this country in 1912 -- exactly one hundred years ago.

For them, the United States was a dream beyond description. They couldn't read or write, but they saw a better life for their children in a new country half a world away from their tiny shtetl.

Against all odds they crossed the Atlantic. And like millions of people before and after, they passed close to the Statue of Liberty as they entered New York Harbor. Perhaps someone who could read English translated the beautiful words of Emma Lazarus, etched in bronze on the pedestal:

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

What would my parents think about America if they arrived here today? Would they even want to come? I wonder.

A century ago, America was a beacon of hope to the world. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were ideals not clichés. Any boy could still grow up to be president. Today, few boys--or girls, for that matter--dream of that. The American dream has become about quick fame and easy fortune, not public service and hard work.

I know something about this. I have been an actor for most of my life. When I started out, I didn't think about anything except what was good for me. Like many movie stars, I became all wrapped up in myself. When I threw off the wrappings, I wrapped myself in the character I was playing.

My change came suddenly when I heard these words spoken by President Kennedy in his Inaugural Address in 1961:

"Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."

It was a moment of clarity for me -- like somebody had flipped a switch and the lights came on.

I had been lucky. Fame is as much about luck as it is about talent, perhaps more. My luck hadn't come without a lot of hard work, but I now realized that it carried a responsibility along with it. JFK's call to conscience made me understand that.

His words also reminded me of something my mother taught me.

For years we lived in a little town called Amsterdam, New York. We had a house near the carpet mills and the railroad tracks. We were very poor and often didn't have enough to eat. Although we had nothing to spare, the hobos from the trains still came knocking on our door in the evening, asking for food. It scared me to look at them--disheveled, dirty. My mother was never frightened. Somehow she always found a little extra food to give them.

Then she said something I never forgot: "Issur,"--that was my name then--"even a beggar must give to another beggar who needs it more than he does."

I was an American movie star whose pictures were seen all around the world. This gave me the opportunity to do something for my country that most Americans couldn't do. So I became an Ambassador of Goodwill for the State Department and traveled to 40 countries talking about America. I wasn't viewed as a Democrat or a Republican. They only saw me as an American. By the way, I paid all my own expenses--I didn't want anyone to say that Kirk Douglas traveled abroad on the taxpayers' dime.

But you do not need to be a movie star to stand up for basic human freedom. The fight against oppression and tyranny depicted in Spartacus is still going on all over the globe from Syria to Egypt to Iran. Even the Russians are once again facing the threat of a popular uprising.

I believe much of the divisiveness in the world is caused by religious fanaticism, even in the time of Spartacus when they worshipped many Gods. Man was not placed on earth to tell God how great He is. He doesn't need our help. As you study history, you find that millions of people have been killed because of religious divisions based on false orthodoxy not genuine spirituality.

After 95 years on this planet, I have come to the conclusion that the human spirit can never be crushed, no matter how cruel the oppressor or fanatic the belief. If we remember that simple truth--and act on it every day in small ways and sometimes in large movements--then freedom will ultimately win.

And then we are all Spartacus.

KD to present Spartacus at Grauman's Chinese

From Grauman's Chinese Theatre

"Spartacus" will be presented by Kirk Douglas Tuesday, June 12th, 2012, at Grauman's Chinese Theatre! Join Kirk Douglas for the revealing of his refurbished Hands & Footprints Square at 6:15pm in the forecourt before the screening! We will be honoring him as a courageous actor both on and off screen in addition to celebrating the release of Douglas' book, "'I Am Spartacus!' Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist"! Signed copies will be available for purchase!

I AM SPARTUS! Review

Note: Kirk's new book I AM SPARTACUS! will be published on June 12, 2012. Here is a pre-publication review from Kirkus Reviews:

I AM SPARTACUS!

He is Spartacus…and here’s how it happened.

Douglas (Let's Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning, 2008, etc.) famously helped break the Hollywood blacklist when he insisted Dalton Trumbo—previously jailed for contempt of Congress and made an unemployable industry pariah due to his membership in the “Hollywood Ten”—be given sole screenwriting credit under his own name for Spartacus, rather than employ a pseudonym, as was common practice at the time. That act of courage is at the heart of this memoir about the creation of the epic film. The author’s evident pride in the matter is wholly justified, but the book’s true appeal lies in the off-camera antics of the storied cast and the candidly described aggravation and terror the production’s many complications engendered in Douglas, who, as the producer, had staked his reputation and financial well-being on the results. Among Douglas’ many headaches were the childish rivalry between stars Laurence Olivier and Charles Laughton, who regarded each other with a curious combination of respect and utter hatred; the scene-stealing machinations of Peter Ustinov, whose efforts would net him an Academy Award; a scheduling standoff with a similarly themed sand-and-sandals epic starring Yul Brynner; and, most fascinatingly, Douglas’ frustration with director Stanley Kubrick, a replacement for Anthony Mann who alienated Douglas and much of the cast and crew with his high-handedness and lack of social skills, while ultimately delivering a technically accomplished and viscerally emotional masterpiece. Douglas is a fine natural storyteller, unafraid to portray his quick temper and nasty outbursts when the going got rough.

An entertaining and informative look at the troubled gestation of a film of both artistic and social significance.

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”.