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A kinder, gentler Kirk Douglas

March 4, 2009 | 12:00 pm


Kirk Douglas made a name for himself playing tough SOBs on screen in such films as “Champion” and “The Bad and the Beautiful.”  In real life, he earned a reputation as a scrappy guy, even taking on the insidious Hollywood blacklist when he hired writer Dalton Trumbo to pen the 1960 classic “Spartacus.”

“I was a fighter,” he says. “I had to be.”

But the 92-year-old admits that since suffering a debilitating stroke in 1996, he’s become less combative. 

Ironically, the superstar always thought of himself as a pussycat. So he was shocked when his Oscar-winning actor/producer son Michael told him, “ ‘You know, Dad, you have become a much softer person.’

“I said, ‘What do you mean?’

“He said, ‘Dad, you were tough.’ 

“Then I heard [the same thing] from many people,” he says. “I always thought I was nice and soft. Every phase of your life, something happens to you to make you a better person or a worse person. What happened to make Bernie Madoff a swindler? What happened in his life?”

Fans of Douglas can hear more about his life in his upcoming show, “Before I Forget,” which opens at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City on Friday. Read about the actor and the show here.

— Susan King

Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times