Kirk Douglas dismayed over Cuckoo's Nest snub

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest tells the story of a felon who fakes insanity to avoid a jail term and finds himself in a psychiatric hospital in Oregon.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest tells the story of a felon who fakes insanity to avoid a jail term and finds himself in a psychiatric hospital in Oregon.PHOTO: WARNER

LOS ANGELES • Their once rocky relationship is easier than ever, but Michael Douglas has revealed that his father, Kirk, still holds one grudge - being snubbed for his son's Oscar-winning 1975 drama One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.

The younger Douglas was 29 when he earned his place among Hollywood's elite as the producer behind the first movie in 40 years to sweep the "big five" Oscars, for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress and Screenplay.

Kirk, now 100, had starred in the Broadway version and handed the movie rights to his son, but was shocked when he was passed over for the role of convict Randle McMurphy in favour of the younger Jack Nicholson.

Michael, 72, said during a question-and-answer session in Hollywood last Saturday how his father's plans to adapt the moderately successful 1963 play, based on Ken Kesey's novel, had foundered after a number of years and he was about to sell the rights.

"I say, 'Please, dad, don't sell the project. It's a great project. Let me take it and run with it and I'll try to get it set up as a production and for you to play the part.' And dad said, 'Okay, great,'" the younger Douglas recalled.

"Here's where Kirk's and my story digress. In his version, Michael gets the project, takes a year, sets it all up and doesn't cast me in the part. If he were here right now, it's the first thing he'd want to tell you."

Douglas told Turner Classic Movies presenter Ben Mankiewicz, who was hosting the discussion about the actor's career, that he was not to blame for his dad's rejection.

"It was about 20 years since dad did the play on Broadway, his career's changed a little bit and our director Milos Forman was like, 'Kirk's a little old for the part'. I said, 'Yeah,'" Douglas said.

"Dad's version is that I rejected him. I said, 'Since when did the producer have casting control? That was the director.'"

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest tells the story of a felon who fakes insanity to avoid a jail term and finds himself in a psychiatric hospital in Oregon, where the patients live in fear of the malevolent ward supervisor, Nurse Ratched.

McMurphy is considered to be the 79-year-old Nicholson's career- defining role, although Forman considered him only after trying unsuccessfully to secure Gene Hackman, Marlon Brando and Burt Reynolds.

"I like to tease my father because I gave him half of our producing deal and he made more money off that movie than any movie he ever made," Douglas said with a laugh.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2017, with the headline 'Kirk Douglas dismayed over Cuckoo's Nest snub'. Print Edition | Subscribe