Arts & Leisure

Kirk Douglas recalls Spartacus, censorship

Posted on August 17, 2012

LOS ANGELES -- Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas earned a standing ovation from a packed Los Angeles theater as he introduced a screening of the 1960 classic Spartacus that included a previously censored scene.

Legendary actor Kirk Douglas holding an advertising placard for the film Spartacus during a ceremony in Hollywood Photo on June 12. -- AFP

“When you’re 95 years old, you don’t look forward. You look backwards, you take inventory,” Douglas said late Monday, as he sat on stage to talk about the film that immortalized him as a movie legend.

Douglas said that Spartacus -- a 2.5-hour epic about a slave rebellion in the Roman empire -- challenged censorship during an era when Hollywood actors and screenwriters were blacklisted due to their alleged communist sympathies.

Douglas produced and starred in the movie, which won four Oscars. The film was directed by Stanley Kubrick and co-starred Laurence Olivier and Tony Curtis.

Douglas hired Dalton Trumbo, a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter, who wrote the script under a pen name. Douglas however put Trumbo’s name in the film credits.

“You have no idea how terrible those years were when we had the blacklist,” said Douglas, speaking with difficulty in part due to a stroke that he suffered in the 1990s.

The complete Spartacus, which was restored in 1991, includes a homoerotic scene that censors cut out when the movie first screened.

In the scene, Olivier’s character, a wealthy Roman, comes to his slave -- a young, half-naked Curtis -- and asks him to enter the tub and help bathe him.

Douglas presented the restored version as part of the Last 70mm Film Festival series.

“I am very proud to be a member of the Hollywood community,” said Douglas, “because in Hollywood the staff are not Republicans or Democrats, you are amongst Americans.”

Douglas said that he was “proud of guys like George Clooney, Sean Penn, who go and spend their money to help other people.” The two Hollywood stars are actively engaged in lobbying for various humanitarian causes. -- AFP