• Industry

Kirk Douglas, The Last Legend

In a city where superlatives are all too readily thrown about, Kirk Douglas is a true giant of cinema. He’s survived a helicopter crash, a stroke, and countless accidents in the times when he personally did death-defying movie stunts, rather than using a stunt double. The legendary shape he was in then probably also explains how great he still looks today at the young age of 97. This December 9 when he turns 98, his new book Life Could Be a Verse, a recollection of poems which continues his long career in literature, will be arriving in bookstores everywhere. “I’ve been writing poems all my life, and this book has one I wrote 60 years ago”, he enthusiastically said in his home in Beverly Hills, later adding: “It’s interesting because it shows what I was thinking and feeling at the time. I’ve included poems I wrote throughout my life. It’s a book that is also about me and my family. When people read it, they will have a completely different view of who I am”.
The man, who, according to a list published in 1999 by the American Film Institute, holds the seventeeth spot for the greatest male screen legend in American film history, spends his days with the love of his life, Anne Buydens, whom he met in Paris in 1953. Even though he does not go out much, he keeps a public life. Last week, he and his wife attended the 10-year anniversary of the Kirk Douglas Theater in Culver City, inviting the audience to come back in a decade to celebrate with him the 20th anniversary. In July, Los Angeles Times published an article written by him, where he tells how he met Anne, whom which he just celebrated his Diamond anniversary, and explains which are the keys to a marriage as successful as his career in film. Some time next year the new film Trumbo will be released, the film, directed by Jay Roach, tells the story of Hollywood’s most famous screenwriter, who was jailed for refusing to testify in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, and later, blacklisted, was exiled to Mexico. Forced to work under another name for over a decade, Trumbo was able to take credit for his scripts once again in1960, when Kirk Douglas and Otto Preminger put their careers on the line in order to place his name in the credits of Spartacus and Exodus, two of the biggest movies of that year. “I am very excited to see the movie” Douglas told us. “I think it’s important for the audience to understand the meaning of liberty. Now someone can say what’s on their mind during an interview, and not get thrown in jail for it”.
Douglas argues that if a movie is ever made about his life, besides the memorable scene in Stanley Kubrick’s early film in which all the slaves rise to proclaim: “I am Spartacus!”, the moment in which he met Anne in Paris can simply not be left out: “when I first met my wife, I asked her out and she had said, ‘no thank you, I am tired, and I think I will make some coffee and go to bed.’ And I was like, well, I will never speak to her again. And then, we were married for sixty years. But that would be a good scene”, he comments.
Mr. Douglas admits that he has not watched any actual movies recently, and that he’s not too up to date on who the actors are that currently have stepped into what was his spotlight, although he admits he feels a certain amount of jealousy towards them for one reason: “I love how they are allowed to use their own names.” Says the actor who grew up in a New York tenement, the son of Russian Jewish Immigrants. “When I first started, since my name was Issur Danielovitch, I had to change it to Kirk Douglas. Yet today I see names in movies that I can’t even pronounce. I think it’s wonderful”.
Even so, he states that there is a contemporary star in Hollywood that brings him much excitement: “My son Michael. I think he’s very good, and I think he looks a little bit like me. One time I came home from Brazil, and I saw my son and I thought it was me. As you know he had cancer. And after he got cured, he did four movies in a row. He’s finishing a movie now in Atlanta, Georgia, and he never complained. He’s my son and I really admire him”, he says. Kirk, who celebrated his 90th birthday with an elegant dinner with family and friends at L’Orangerie, says he has no plans for his 100th, and if he makes it, he would be happy just having a drink with Michael, Catherine and the rest of his family. He laughs when we mention his stamina and strength in the face of life’s challenges: “God has no room for me, he doesn’t want me. I’m a troublemaker!”, he says with the same smile that 50 years ago melted half the planet’s hearts.
Gabriel Lerman