Celebrated actor Kirk Douglas never expected to still be acting at the age of 88, especially after suffering from a debilitating stroke in 1996, until he found an irresistible script called Illusion. Douglas, the star of more than 80 films including Spartacus, gives the performance of a lifetime in Illusion, a feature film that will be available during the month of May 2007 to members of The Spiritual Cinema Circle DVD club.
The award-winning Illusion tells the story of a once powerful but now lonely, aged and ailing film director, Donald Baines (Kirk Douglas), who finds himself in deep remorse after rejecting his only child, an illegitimate son named Christopher (Michael Goorjian). Late one night the legendary director is "awakened" by the ghost-like presence of his dear friend and editor, Stan (Ron Marasco) who has been dead for more than 35 years. Stan shows Baines three "mini-movies" of his son’s life at times when the son is at a pivotal point.
What the old man sees is the tragic life of the son he never claimed and the impact that his absence had in his life and on his ability to love. On his deathbed, Baines is given the gift of redemption and the opportunity to help Christopher who discovers that the only person who could change the story of his life was the father he never knew.
This powerful and uplifting film is the creation of Michael Goorjian ("Party of Five") who, as writer/director/co-star of Illusion, literally bet the farm to make this film. After winning the First Place Feature and Audience Choice Awards at the 2005 Spiritual Cinema Festival-At-Sea, he admitted, "I was, as they say in poker, all in. I spent all of my money, that of my friends and family, and maxed out every credit card I could get my hands on to make this film."
Goorjian’s compelling script, combined with Douglas’ star power and entrancing performance, make Illusion a movie that appeals to people from all walks of life.
During his extraordinary lifetime of achievement, Mr. Douglas has appeared in 87 films, 10 plays, written nine books and been married to his wife Anne for more than 50 years. In 1958, he broke the notorious Hollywood blacklist when he gave screen credit to blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo for the Spartacus screenplay. He was widely condemned for his decision at the time. It was not until 30 years later that the American Civil Liberties Union and the Writers Guild of America recognized his act as courageous.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Kirk Douglas and Michael Goorjian about the film Illusion.
Mr. Douglas, why did you say yes to Michael Goorjian to star in Illusion?
Kirk Douglas: Michael came to me at the right time. Illusion appealed to me because I found something spiritual in it. The man I played was not a very good guy throughout his life, but he felt the need to do something good before he died. He wanted to help the son that he had ignored. Playing this role was a great privilege. Michael, some would say that this film is about the Akashic records. What that your intent?
Michael Goorjian: The Akashic records became a metaphor through which to tell this story. Mr. Douglas, is there a relationship between the role you played and your relationship with your father?
KD: Of course. My father never gave me a pat on the back. He just couldn’t do it and that’s something that I missed all of my life. He was a Russian immigrant and it was difficult for him to express deep emotion. I always wanted to make sure I gave my children a pat on the back.
I once asked my son Michael if I had been a good father. He took a long pause and finally said, "Ultimately you were a great father."
And I said, "Ultimately?"
He said "yes."
I thought about that a lot…. I even wrote about that pause in my book, because it bothered me. I realized there was a period in my life where maybe I was too wrapped up in making movies and that my son missed something. Doing Illusion reminded me, "Oh my God, before I die I want to do something for my kids."
Michael, you maxed out all your credit cards to make Illusion. Was it worth it?
MG: Yeah, absolutely. A definite theme of this film is to follow your dreams and I figured that if I’m going to make pictures like this – I’d better live this way.
KD: I think Michael should be proud of Illusion. To me it was a wonderful thing to work with so many young, talented people. It was rejuvenating to me.
MG: Kirk was very inspiring to me. During our first month of rehearsals, I realized that Kirk is just like me or any other actor: he loves acting. In Illusion, we got a chance to really explore the deeper side of life.
Mr. Douglas, you were Bar Mitzvahed a second time at age 73. What drew you back to your religious and spiritual roots?
KD: I don’t know if there is an "after life," but I thought it would make my mother happy. I’m not a very religious guy. I think there’s too much religion in the world. It’s doesn’t matter what religion you follow. If it makes you considerate of other people and you do unto others as you would have them do unto you, then that’s the right religion.
Michael, tell me about your first meeting with Mr. Douglas.
MG: I remember the first time I went to his house. He came up and looked at my chin and said, "It’ll do." Everything happened pretty quickly after that. He read the script and agreed to star in it.
Mr. Douglas, do you believe that certain things in life are pre-destined?
KD: I think it’s true. I recently celebrated my 90th birthday. When I was a kid, I almost drowned. I survived a helicopter crash. I have had operations on both knees. I’ve got a pacemaker and had a stroke – and I’m still around. Sometimes I wonder why and I think it’s because I want to help younger people, because let’s face it: the world is in a mess. My generation has not done a very good job and we are leaving a lot of problems for the younger generation to solve.
Michael, what are you working on now?
MG: I’m writing a new picture …it’s a love story that has a lot of metaphysical aspects to it. Mr. Douglas, what are you now working on?
KD: Well, I just finished my ninth book. It’s called Let’s Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning. I dedicated it to my grandchildren. In this book, I share the mistakes that I have made, the things that I like and don’t like. Writing this book has been a catharsis. The book came out in March.
Members of The Spiritual Cinema Circle will receive Illusion as part of the May 2007 DVD collection. For a limited time, new subscribers to The Circle can receive a free trial membership (for a nominal shipping fee) by visiting www.spiritualcinemacircle.com or by calling toll-free 1 (800) 556-0129. Illusion will be available in stores nationwide on May 29 or through www.gaiam.com for $14.98.