It’s easy to get cynical about Hollywood. But since Easter is a time for forgiveness and faith, its worth taking a look at a never-before-published letter from legendary star Kirk Douglas to Robert Downey Jr. when the Marvel star was at his lowest ebb—serving a three-year sentence for drug possession in prison.
The Spartacus actor—still going strong at 100—has included the letter in an upcoming compendium Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter and a Lifetime in Hollywood.
Douglas writes about Downey Jr.—who has bounced back to be the highest-paid star walking the planet—in the book: “I was very worried about him when he was sentenced to serve time in a California correctional facility. I didn’t really know him, but I was familiar with the kind of demons that tormented him. I wanted him to know I cared.” The letter dated December 13, 1999 read:
Please forgive my Chutzpah in writing this letter. I admire you as an actor. You have great talent. A talent such as yours is given to you by God. You have the responsibility of preserving that talent.
You cannot use that talent where you are now. It may sound pretentious, but I believe sincerely that when you have such a talent, you have an obligation to other people.
I pray that God will give you the strength to deal with your problems so that we may enjoy your talent in the future.”
P.S. I must admit that I have one son that I have not been very successful with my advice. But maybe I will be more successful with you.
Douglas notes: “He sent back a postcard in bright red ink,” on Christmas Eve:
I’m no schmuck.
When advice comes from a good man, I take it!
Hey! What a privilege to be in your thoughts,
Downey Jr.’s response isn’t too shabby for someone in the slammer. The “one son that I have not been very successful with my advice” is presumably a reference to his son Eric Douglas who died of an accidental drug overdose some years later, in 2004.
When Downey recovered his mojo, he was weirdly falsely fingered for supplying a blind item about Kirk Douglas and a sexual assault on Natalie Wood.
In fact, Douglas was supportive of Downey Jr. behind the scenes. He might have been encouraged by his son Michael Douglas who worked with Downey Jr. on the 2000 film Wonder Boys which was filmed just before his incarceration.
Kirk and Anne: Letters of Love, Laughter and a Lifetime in Hollywood—which is co-authored by Douglas’s wife Anne Buydens—is out May 2.