Why Kirk and Anne Douglas Are Giving Away Their Fortune

Getty Images
Douglas in 2002 at one of the 408 L.A playgrounds he and Anne funded.

The iconic actor and his wife of 61 years have amassed an $80 million fortune, and now they are planning to give back to a range of causes, from Children's Hospital Los Angeles and the Anne Douglas Center for Women to their biggest passion, the Motion Picture & Television Fund.

A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Kirk Douglas, 98, has come a long way from his Russian immigrant parents' house near the railroad tracks in Amsterdam, New York. Sitting in his Beverly Hills home with Anne, his wife of 61 years, the legendary actor recalls of his youth, "Sometimes we didn't have enough to eat, but very often there would be a knock at the door and it would be a hobo wanting food, and my mother always gave them something. My mother said to me, 'You must take care of other people.' That stayed with me.'"

Rendering of the MPTF's Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion

Movie stars in Kirk's heyday didn't get paid the kind of money they do today, but Kirk still became a very wealthy man. In 1955, he formed a production company so that he could make movies outside of the studio system — a new concept back then — and Anne took charge of its bookkeeping. (The company's "big moneymakers," she recalls, were 1958's The Vikings and 1960's Spartacus.) "My wife is very smart," says Kirk. "Fifty years ago she set up a trust, and it's been growing ever since. So recently [in 2012] I said, 'How much money do we have in that?' And she said, '$80 million.' I said, 'What?!'" Anne recalls Kirk's next remark, after he caught his breath: "He said, 'I want to give it away.' And that's exactly what's happening."

Through the Douglas Foundation, the couple already have pledged $50 million to institutions including his alma mater, St. Lawrence University, where they fund a scholarship for minority and underprivileged students; Westwood's Sinai Temple, which houses the Kirk and Anne Douglas Childhood Center; Culver City's Kirk Douglas Theatre, a dilapidated movie theater restored as a live performance venue; Children's Hospital Los Angeles, for a robot that performs surgery on children, which the hospital has nicknamed "Spartacus" (at the donation ceremony Kirk addressed it: 'No, I am Spartacus!'); and two initiatives Anne has championed: the construction of 408 playgrounds in the L.A. school district and the Anne Douglas Center for Women, a homeless shelter. "It makes me feel very good to have what I have, honestly," she says, "but then to do good with it."

Rendering of the MPTF's Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion

The Douglas' biggest contributions, though, have been to the Motion Picture & Television Fund. In the early 1990s, they raised $2 million to build Harry's Haven (named after Kirk's father), a specialized unit for people suffering from Alzheimer's and related forms of dementia, on the Woodland Hills campus. In 2012, they donated an additional $20 million to the MPTF. Then, a year ago, after learning that Harry's Haven was becoming overcrowded, they pledged an additional $15 million for an expansion. Ground will be broken for the Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion, a new two-floor building attached to Harry's Haven, around the time of Kirk's 99th birthday in December. Anne laughs, "When [MPTF Foundation chairman] Jeffrey Katzenberg comes to say 'Hello,' you say, 'How much?' "

Rendering of the MPTF's Kirk Douglas Care Pavilion

Read more from THR's philanthropy issue below.

Bill Maher: "Unlike Lion Killers, PETA Only Goes After Fair Game" (Guest Column)

How Cecil the Lion Rescued a Wildlife Program on the Verge of Extinction

How Tom Rothman, Mark Gordon and the Fulfillment Fund Are Improving L.A.'s Graduation Rates

Why Hollywood Loved the Ice Bucket Challenge (Guest Column)

Lady Gaga 'Hunting Ground' Song to Become Campus Rape PSA Directed by Catherine Hardwicke

How 100 Hollywood Moms Are Supporting Foster Kids Who Become Mothers

Matthew Perry on Sobriety and Service: "Two Alcoholics Talking to Each Other is a Big Deal"

Bill Cosby, Donald Sterling and the "Nightmare" Naming-Rights Problem

The Entertainment Industry's Biggest Givers

The Hollywood Indies Little League Swings and Connects With At-Risk Youth

Lionel Richie Named MusiCares Person of the Year

How Ted Danson, Cobie Smulders and Mary Steenburgen Are Fighting for the Oceans

comments powered by Disqus