Kirk Douglas

2012-42 FEA Blacklist Kirk Douglas P IPAD
Joe Pugliese

"When it started, I couldn’t imagine it to be so invasive. ... In retrospect, the blacklist era was the most sinful period in Hollywood history."

In the late 1950s and early '60s, few people in Hollywood possessed as much power or popularity as the dimple-chinned Kirk Douglas, who was not only a matinee idol, but, through his own production company, a behind-the-scenes player. In other words, he had as good a shot as anyone at taking the controversial stance of opposing the Blacklist, but he also had more to lose than most by doing so. So Douglas went out on a limb when he decided to make noted lefty Howard Fast's novel Spartacus into a film, and went even further when he hired Dalton Trumbo, who was one of the first writers to be blacklisted, to adapt it. Trumbo was one of the original Hollywood Ten who had refused to cooperate with HUAC, spent 11 months in prison and was still on the Blacklist. Douglas ultimately decided that it was the right thing to do -- both professionally and morally -- to hire and give credit to Trumbo. And, as director Otto Preminger also found when he hired and gave screen credit to Trumbo for Exodus (1960), even though the move raised eyebrows, the world didn't end and the Blacklist began to fade away. "I have a letter he wrote to me thanking me," Douglas says. " 'Kirk, I thank you for giving me back my name.' It was very touching. … It's nice to make a movie that people enjoy and that does something." In 1996, just two months after Douglas suffered a stroke, the Academy gave him an honorary Oscar "for 50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community." He recently chronicled his battle with the Blacklist in his 10th book, I Am Spartacus!: Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist.

Douglas was photographed by Joe Pugliese on May 23 at his home in Beverly Hills