After Screen Legend Kirk Douglas Passed Away, His Famous Son Shared A Touching Tribute

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Famous actor Kirk Douglas died in February 2020 at the tremendous age of 103. And he’d led a remarkable life. When he passed away, he left a family behind – among whose members was equally well-known star Michael Douglas. The latter was Kirk’s oldest son, and after his father’s death he paid tribute to him with a touching statement.
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Kirk’s family didn’t reveal the exact cause of his death, but it was well known that he’d had health issues for a long time. A major stroke back in 1996 meant that he struggled to speak, and he had only partially regained the ability to express himself after months of therapy.
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However, one detail the family did release about Kirk’s death is that he passed away surrounded by family. The actor welcomed four sons overall; though one of them, Eric, sadly died in 2004 of a drug overdose. But between Kirk’s kids, they gave him seven grandchildren – Cameron, Dylan, Carys, Kelsey, Tyler, Ryan and Jason.
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When news of Kirk’s death hit the internet, many famous people took to social media to pay sorrowful tributes. The star had been one of the last stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, and his movies had been iconic. Among his most famous ones were Lust for Life, Paths of Glory and Spartacus.
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Kirk’s daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta Jones, for her part, released a sad statement on social media. The two, after all, had always enjoyed a close relationship. The wife of Michael posted on her Instagram account the simple words, “To my darling Kirk, I shall love you for the rest of my life. I miss you already. Sleep tight.”
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Kirk’s friend and legendary director Steven Spielberg, meanwhile, released his own statement to The Hollywood Reporter. He said, “Kirk retained his movie star charisma right to the end of his wonderful life, and I’m honoured to have been a small part of his last 45 years. I will miss his handwritten notes, letters and fatherly advice, and his wisdom and courage – even beyond such a breathtaking body of work – are enough to inspire me for the rest of mine.”
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Elsewhere, Star Wars actor Mark Hamill said on his Twitter, “Kirk Douglas was one of the biggest stars of all time and a brilliant actor with an unforgettable, blazing charisma. He will also be remembered for putting his career on the line by defying the Hollywood Blacklist [and] hiring writer Dalton Trumbo for the classic Spartacus.”
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And journalist Dan Rather wrote, “Hollywood doesn’t make legends like Kirk Douglas anymore. Born into a Jewish immigrant family, his star rose in the golden age of film, when marquee lights were bright and movie houses palaces. My thoughts are with his family. May his memory be a blessing to them, and all of us.”
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Many people offered condolences to Kirk’s family and especially his wife of over half a century: Anne Buydens. She was the actor’s second spouse, his first being Diana Dill, who was the mother of Michael and his brother Joel. Anne herself is a centenarian – having turned 100 years old in the year 2019.
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Of course, plenty more people also offered condolences to Michael – the most visible member of Kirk’s large family. Director Rob Reiner wrote on Twitter, “Kirk Douglas will always be an icon in the pantheon of Hollywood. He put himself on the line to break the blacklist. My love goes out to my friend Michael and the whole family.”
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Over the years Michael has spoken a lot about the relationship between himself and his legendary father. Apparently, things were often complicated. In 2010 he told AARP The Magazine, “I was the product of a divorced family. My dad was always torn; he was working really hard and would want to see us.”
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Michael went on, “But then, with all his Kirk Douglas passion, he’d try to be a father for a week, a summer, whatever. It was tough.” He added, “I think it’s easier for me to be a good father. I’m not so concerned about my career.” At the time, the children he’d had with Catherine Zeta-Jones were still young.
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Michael claimed that his father had placed his career over being a parent when the former was growing up. In 2016 he told newspaper The Guardian that though he’d had “great times” visiting Kirk in Hollywood, “Dad was film star first, father second. We were much more emotionally attached to our stepfather.”
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Michael’s stepfather had been a man called Bill Darrid. The actor explained to The Guardian, “Bill was an extraordinary guy, the most important male influence through my teenage years. To his credit, Kirk always referred to him as my surrogate father. Step-parents often get a bad press. But it isn’t always true.”
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Another step-parent in the mix, meanwhile, was Anne. Michael told The Guardian, “She’s a wonderful woman, the opposite of a wicked stepmother, who has been an integral part of my life all that time.” But in the interview he also remembered his own mother, Diana Dill, who passed away in 2015.
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Of his parents’ divorce, Michael mused, “Whichever way you cut it, Kirk was a man who cast… an extremely long shadow. He was… incredibly dynamic, larger than life, sometimes aggressive, a very masculine man who loved women – as my mother quickly discovered. Within 18 months of him being in California, she had seen and read enough to call time on the marriage.”
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And in August 2018 Michael told Closer magazine that his dad’s fame made him reconsider acting for a while. He said, “I thought I could never be the actor dad was, so I avoided it for a while. Not a lot of actors’ kids make it. Hollywood is awash with failures. For a long time, I can’t say I really enjoyed acting. I was always censoring it, editing it or analyzing it, rather than just going with it.”
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But no matter what, the father and son loved each other. In November 2018 Kirk made a public appearance when the younger actor was granted a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And actress Jane Fonda, Michael’s co-star in the film The China Syndrome, made a speech about how Michael had emerged from his father’s shadow.
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Jane, who herself is from a famous acting family, said, “Michael Douglas and I share something far more specific and unique than acting together… we both come from families referred to by the press as Hollywood royalty. Both of our fathers were movie legends, and thankfully, Kirk Douglas is still with us.”
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Jane went on, “Stepping into a family business, any family business, is always challenging. Look at the Trumps or the Corleones. Carving out your own identity in a world-famous family business is especially difficult when parent and child are the same gender. I believe it was easier for me to follow in my father’s footsteps than it was for Michael to follow in his father’s footsteps.”
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“Michael has not only carved out his identity as a great, great actor with tremendous range, but as a great producer as well,” Jane concluded. “He has rightfully been bestowed with all of the awards Hollywood has to offer… and now, finally, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.”
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For his part, Michael also had plenty to say at the Walk of Fame ceremony. He thanked his brothers for coming and gave a special shout-out to his son Cameron – his child with his first wife Diandra Luker. Cameron had experienced lots of problems with drugs and spent some time in prison, but now he was out and working to improve his life. And the latter’s first child was actually named after his grandfather Kirk.
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Naturally, Michael also gave a shout-out to his beloved wife as well. He called Catherine “the love of my life,” and told her, “I’m grateful for your support and your love and your patience. By the way, in another week we are celebrating our 18th anniversary so thank you for the best 18 years of my life, sweetheart!”
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And then the star called out to his father, who was seated in a wheelchair there. Michael said, “My dad is here. In a month, Kirk will be 102 years old! It means so much to me, Dad, that you’re here today. Thank you for your advice, inspiration, and I’ll say it simply and with all my heart: I’m so proud to be your son.”
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Michael would repeat those words in an Instagram statement he released after Kirk passed away. Although many people of course posted about what his father meant to them, Michael’s words were arguably the most touching of all. He began, “It is with tremendous sadness that my brothers and I announce that Kirk Douglas left us today at the age of 103.”
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Michael then went on to talk about his father’s illustrious career. He said, “To the world [Kirk] 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.”
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The Wall Street star also made sure to reference all the other family members who were also grieving the loss. Michael continued, “… To me and my brothers Joel and Peter he was simply dad, to Catherine, a wonderful father-in-law, to his grandchildren and great grandchild their loving grandfather. And to his wife Anne, [he was] a wonderful husband.”
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And Michael also mentioned the work that his father did did besides acting. He went on, “Kirk’s life was well lived, and he leaves a legacy in film that will endure for generations to come, and a history as a renowned philanthropist who worked to aid the public and bring peace to the planet.” Indeed, Kirk donated to multiple good causes throughout his life.
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Michael concluded his post, “Let me end with the words I told him on his last birthday and which will always remain true. Dad – I love you so much and I am so proud to be your son.” Meanwhile, in the comments people offered condolences, and Catherine wrote, “He loved you so very much my darling.”
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Kirk’s funeral took place two days after he died and was held at the Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park and Mortuary in Los Angeles. Michael, his brothers Joel and Peter, Catherine and Anne were all seen attending. And Steven Spielberg, who of course had paid tribute to the actor on Instagram, was also there.
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The family released more statements after that, too. Kirk’s granddaughter via Michael, Carys, wrote an Instagram post on February 7 which read, “My pappy was and forever will be my inspiration, my biggest supporter and the best grandpa in the world. I remember I would send him videos of me from my dance competitions and he would watch them on repeat.”
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The young woman went on, “[Kirk] was, and still is a tremendous inspiration to the world through not only his incredible acting career, but his philanthropy and generosity that moved mountains. Although he was adored by millions, to me he was my pappy – my superhero. He came from nothing, yet through his drive and determination, [he] made a name for himself.”
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Carys concluded, “He joined our family together and lived an incredible long life. I spent 16 years of my life loving and being loved by Kirk Douglas and that is the greatest gift I could ever have. I will forever be saving that last dance for you pappy. I love you.” Her mother Catherine wrote beneath the post, “What beautiful words from your beautiful heart to your beloved pappy. He loved you so very much. What an extraordinary angel you have surrounding you.”
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On February 10 Michael then made another post on Instagram alongside a sweet photograph of him and Kirk. And this one expressed gratitude for all the condolences the family had received. It read, “Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful words. Our family is so grateful for your support and we send our love to everyone!”
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Two days later Cameron Douglas spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about his grandfather. He wrote, “These past couple of years, I moved about 15 minutes away from [Kirk and Anne] and have been spending a lot of time with him – bringing my daughter Vivian over on weekends. Just watching the bond between my daughter and grandfather was extremely special.”
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Cameron went on, “One of the motivating factors behind bringing my family out to Los Angeles was to spend more time with him. That says a lot about the man that he was in my life and my desire to get my career going again soon enough so that he would be able to see the trajectory of my life starting to go in a positive direction. It’s what he called ‘functioning.’”
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“Losing [Kirk] is one of those things that, even when you sort of see it coming – he was 103 – it’s still difficult,” Cameron continued. “I take solace in the pride of being his grandson and having had the opportunity to spend as much time with him as I have. When I look at his life, what he accomplished and the way he carried himself, it’s hard for me to imagine anyone doing it any better.”
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Not long after that, Dylan Douglas also released a statement on his grandfather. He wrote on Instagram, “Though I am deeply sad by the death of my dear pappy; all I know from my life is that I want it to be long and good. I know full well that the life of Kirk Douglas was the longest and greatest I have ever seen.”
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The son of Michael Douglas went on, “They say don’t meet your heroes but what they don’t tell you is if you’re lucky enough you can have your heroes be family – and pappy you are my hero and you always will be! I love and miss you and thank you for the immense impact you had on my life.”
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The whole family will clearly miss Kirk Douglas very much, but they can hopefully take solace in the fact that the rest of the world misses him too. Carys and Dylan, according to Michael, want to get into the movie business themselves at some point – they’ve got some mighty big shoes to fill.

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