Kirk Douglas is a Hollywood legend. Not only did he have an impressive career spanning stage and screen, but his son Michael Douglas is just as talented. Still, everyone has their regrets, even someone as prolific as Kirk.
His biggest regret is missing out on the role of his life: RP McMurphy in the Academy Award-winning film adaptation of one flew over the cuckoo’s nest. This is how it happened.
Kirk Douglas starred in the stage version of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’
Although Kirk did not act in the film One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, he is the reason the movie was made, according to History By Day. In the 1960s, Kirk fell in love with Ken Kesey’s novel, the source material for the film. He repeatedly tried to make it into a movie, but had no luck. Kirk was able to turn the novel into a Broadway play.
Kirk starred in the stage version of One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, like McMurphy. Although Michael was not yet an actor, he inherited his father’s love for Kesey’s novel. Young Douglas asked permission to run with the material.
Michael was finally able to make it into a movie. However, at the time, Kirk was too old to play the lead.
The film adaptation of ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ was a masterpiece
The film version of one flew over the cuckoo’s nest it quickly became a timeless masterpiece. Michael told The Guardian that the film was basically cobbled together by a ragtag group of Hollywood newcomers and misfits. It did, however, win five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Jack Nicholson, and Best Actress for Louise Fletcher.
But one flew over the cuckoo’s nest It was more than just a critical success. It was also financial. The film was the third-highest-grossing film of 1975, the highest grossing of 1976. In total, it earned more than $163 million worldwide.
Nicholson took a cut of the profits in exchange for minimum wage, which turned out to be a great decision. Not only did he win his Oscar, but he walked away with 10% of the $163 million profit, probably around $16 million. Remember: this was $16 million in economic terms in the 1970s. It would be much more today.
Kirk Douglas’ biggest regret was missing out on the role of Jack Nicholson in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’
Kirk also took a great cut of the one flew over the cuckoo’s nest pie. In fact, he wrote in his autobiography that he made more money from the rights to this movie than from any movie he’d starred in throughout his entire career. But Kirk claims that he would return all the money for the chance to play the lead.
The elder Douglas described not being able to play McMurphy in the film version as the “biggest disappointment” of his life. Although he thinks Nicholson did a great job with the role. “If Jack was lousy, he would have said, ‘What a mistake they made!’ But he got an Oscar, so maybe I would have been wrong in the role,” he said, according to History By Day.
For his part, Nicholson credits Kirk with the entire project. After all, the X star saw the potential in the source material and never stopped pushing for it to be made into a movie. Kirk died on February 5, 2020 at the age of 103.
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