US leading man, producer and director is the father of Oscar-winning actor and filmmaker, Michael Douglas.
Kirk Douglas, one of the last superstars of Hollywood‘s golden age of cinema and renowned for his intense, muscular performances in films like Spartacus and Paths of Glory, died Wednesday at age 103.
The US leading man, producer and director came to prominence in the late 1940s and never lost his popularity, taking on nearly 100 movies during a 60-year career.
His death at his family home in Beverly Hills was confirmed by his son Michael Douglas, the Oscar-winning actor and filmmaker.
“It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103,” Michael said in a statement posted to Facebook.
“To the world he was a legend, an actor from the golden age of movies who lived well into his golden years, a humanitarian whose commitment to justice and the causes he believed in set a standard for all of us to aspire to.”
Tributes poured in from across Hollywood and around the world on social media, with many declaring “I am Spartacus!” in a nod to Douglas’s legendary role as a rebellious Roman slave.
“Kirk Douglas. The inspirational Scalawag,” wrote actor Danny DeVito, in reference to the 1973 movie of the same name – the first film Douglas directed.
“103 years on this earth. That’s got a nice ring to it! Great hanging with you man,” he added.
Larger than life
Douglas, born Issur Danielovitch to Jewish-Russian immigrants in upstate New York in 1916, began working as a stage actor before joining the United States Navy during the second world war.
He graduated to movies in 1946 when Casablanca producer Hal Wallis signed him, and he became a star for his role as a double-crossing and womanising boxer in 1949’s Champion.
His subsequent roles would often mirror his real-world, larger-than-life and intense persona, including a ruthless movie producer in The Bad and the Beautiful”(1952) and tortured artist Vincent van Gogh in Lust for Life (1956).
Douglas told The New York Times in a 1984 interview that he had “always been attracted to characters who are part scoundrel”, adding: “I don’t find virtue photogenic.”
He was renowned for his physical commitment to roles, training for months to play a boxer in Champion, and learning to ride a horse and shoot in the 1957 Western Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Douglas was nominated three times for an Oscar – his last nomination was for Lust for Life – but missed out each time and was never nominated again.
He was granted an honorary lifetime achievement statuette by the Academy in 1996 – just months after a severe stroke – “for 50 years as a creative and moral force in the motion picture community.”
Douglas is survived by his second wife Anne Buydens, 100, and three sons. A fourth child, Eric, died of a drug overdose in his 40s, in 2004.
“(To) me and my brothers Joel and Peter he was simply Dad, to Catherine (Zeta-Jones), a wonderful father-in-law, to his grandchildren and great grandchild their loving grandfather, and to his wife Anne, a wonderful husband,” Michael said.