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Celebrating the Spirit of Spartacus

6 Jun, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

Spartacus Then and Now: Kirk Douglas and Liam McIntyre

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Kirk Douglas, 95, is surprised at how much he remembers from 52 years ago, when he produced and starred in Spartacus, and helped break Hollywood’s blacklist, the ban against suspected communists.

He also knows something else, which he shared with Liam McIntyre, 30, the latest to take up the role of Spartacus in Starz Entertainment’s Spartacus: Vengeance: “Don’t become a producer. You’re the boss, and everyone hates the boss.”

It was one of many pearls of wisdom Douglas doled out May 31 at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Goldenson Theater, where he was honored for his work and presented with a sword from the TV series, which read: “For Kirk, the original hero. Stand together or fall divided.”

Douglas was also honored for the release of his 10th book, I Am Spartacus! Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist, which hits shelves June 12.

“It would probably make a good movie,” Douglas joked about the book.

Douglas began producing his Spartacus during a time when Hollywood refused to hire anyone accused of communist sympathies. He chose Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted screenwriter who refused to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, to write the film. In 1991 the Writers Guild of America honored Douglas for his work in helping to break the blacklist.

“When I came home that night, my wife and I were in bed, and I said, ‘I did something wonderful,’” Douglas said. “She said ‘What have you done lately?’”

Douglas also spoke about bringing on actor Tony Curtis and a controversial young director to the film.

“Stanley Kubrick was a difficult guy, and he would have said the same thing about me,” Douglas said.

Douglas also spoke about his age and how it’s both wonderful and sad at the same time.

“It’s lonely, because so many of your friends disappear,” he said.

Douglas admitted he was scared at the time he made Spartacus because he wasn’t sure what would happen to him.

“When I think of Spartacus, I think it was one of the greatest things I ever made,” he said. He then joked with McIntyre: “I’ve made 90 movies, how many have you made?”

“That’s not fair! He’s Academy Award nominated, I’ve only done one thing,” McIntyre joked. McIntyre and Douglas went back and forth all evening, talking about staying in shape, wearing loincloths and doing their own stunts. Douglas did all his stunts for Spartacus and suggested that McIntyre learn from his mistake.

“I have two bad knees,” he said. “Be a smart actor. Have a stuntman do it for you.”

They also discussed the differences between the sex and violence of today’s Spartacus vs. 1960’s.

“There was a lot of sex, fornicating, which we’re allowed to show and do so frequently,” McIntyre said of Spartacus: Vengeance, the follow-up to Spartacus: Blood and Sand that arrives on DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 11 from Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Steven S. DeKnight, the creator and producer of the Starz series, called the opportunity to recreate Spartacus 50 years later “a dream come true.” But it almost didn’t happen at all.

When he was first approached about making the series, he only knew that producer and director Sam Raimi and Starz wanted to make a gladiator series, he said.

“I came in, and they said ‘Spartacus.’ I said ‘Oh ****,’” he said. “I almost turned it down because I couldn’t imagine doing the job Kirk had done.”


“It’s our hope that 50 years from now someone else will take a stab at it,” DeKnight said.

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