Love has more depth as you get older —Kirk Douglas
WHAT I'VE LEARNED
In order to achieve anything, you must be brave enough to fail.
I tell my sons they didn't have my advantages growing up. I came from abject poverty. There was nowhere to go but up.
Give your children lots of rope. Allow them to make their own mistakes. Don't give them too much advice. Each child is different; you have to respect that. It's a crapshoot: You roll the dice, and you see what happens.
Love has more depth as you get older.
The more I've studied the Torah, the less religious I've become, the more spiritual. We Jews are taught to read Hebrew, but we don't know what the hell we're reading. At Yom Kippur services, I was reading the English translations, and it came to me: There's so much adoration of God, but God doesn't need us to sing his praises. He just wants us to be better people.
Muslims follow Muhammad to reach God. Christians follow Jesus. Jews follow Moses. But it's all the same God.
Everybody has an ego.
I never wanted to be a movie actor. I started out on the stage. The first time I was invited out here, I turned it down. Then Michael was born and I needed money, so I came. Sometimes, the thing that ties you down sets you free.
The learning process continues until the day you die.
If I thought a man had never committed a sin in his life, I don't think I'd want to talk with him. A man with flaws is more interesting.
Making movies is a form of narcissism.
When I kiss my sons on the mouth, people look at me oddly. They look at closeness as a weakness. But a boy needs physical closeness with his father as well as with his mother.
No matter how bad things are, they can always be worse. So what if my stroke left me with a speech impediment? Moses had one, and he did all right.
Mistakes that are perceived as mistakes are often not mistakes at all.
One big disappointment in my life was One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I bought the rights to the book, but no one wanted to make it into a movie. So I paid to have it made into a Broadway play. There was one line in there that was so beautiful. McMurphy is trying to help all these people on the ward. There was a sink, and he tried to lift it out of the wall, but he couldn't. He tried really hard, but it wouldn't budge. As he was leaving the room, with all the guys watching, he turned around and said, "But I tried, goddammit, I tried!" Sometimes I think I should have that as my epitaph.
Politics has become a dirty word.
Not long ago, I was playing golf, and I said to my partner, "Let those old geezers tee off first." And my partner says, "Kirk, those old geezers are fifteen years younger than you."
There must be things in life that you can never master. Golf is one of them.
Age is in the mind. I've survived a helicopter crash and back surgery. I have a pacemaker. I had a stroke that almost made me commit suicide. But I tell myself, I have to continue growing and functioning. That's the only antidote for age.
Maybe when you die, you come before a big, bearded man on a big throne, and you say, "Is this heaven?" And he says, "Heaven? You just came from there."
Religion has killed millions of people. Something must be wrong.
People are always talking about the old days. They say that the old movies were better, that the old actors were so great. But I don't think so. All I can say about the old days is that they have passed.
I don't like goody-goodies.
The only people who can destroy Israel are the Jews. They are a stiff-necked people, very divisive. It's hard for them all to get along. There's this joke where the president of Israel is talking to the president of America, and he says, "I know it's hard to be the president of a quarter of a billion people, but how would you like to be the president of five million presidents?"
Thinking of other people takes you away from constantly thinking of yourself.
It seems as if only now I really know who I am. My strengths, my weaknesses, my jealousies—it's as if all of it has been boiling in a pot for all these years, and as it boils, it evaporates into steam, and all that's left in the pot in the end is your essence, the stuff you started out with in the very beginning.
Originally published in the April 2001 issue
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.