Kirk Douglas and his ‘Posse’ : Still active, the 93-year-old receives a tribute from Quentin Tarantino and a rare screening

 Quentin Tarantino and Kirk Douglas ask each other questions in front of the crowd after the showing of "Posse" at the Lobero Theater. ROBBY BARTHELMESS/NEWS-PRESS


Quentin Tarantino and Kirk Douglas ask each other questions in front of the crowd after the showing of “Posse” at the Lobero Theater.
ROBBY BARTHELMESS/NEWS-PRESS

 Above, Quentin Tarantino and Kirk Douglas are shown speaking at the Lobero Theatre on Sunday. At right, the two shake hands backstage after the Q & A session.


Above, Quentin Tarantino and Kirk Douglas are shown speaking at the Lobero Theatre on Sunday. At right, the two shake hands backstage after the Q & A session.

In recursive moment of movie love, Kirk Douglas and Quentin Tarantino fans gathered on Sunday afternoon at the Lobero for a meeting with the two stars. Mr. Tarantino overflowed with appreciation and love for Mr. Douglas, whose 1975 film “Posse,” was specially screened for the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. In turn, Mr. Douglas revealed himself as a Tarantino fan, steering the chat away from Sunday’s film screening to tout “Inglourious Basterds,” Mr. Tarantino’s’s recent World War II drama.

These are, of course, the moments on which SBIFF has built its legacy. And Sunday’s screening also showed how SBIFF can hustle and improvise and provide special moments beyond the de rigueur tributes. The screening springs from last October, when Mr. Tarantino appeared at the Coral Casino to receive SBIFF’s 2009 Kirk Douglas Award. Starstruck himself to meet one of his childhood heroes, the two became fast friends.

On Sunday, there was talk of Mr. Douglas’ famous films: “Spartacus,” “Lust for Life” of course — but Mr. Tarantino, ever the esoteric, kept mentioning “Posse,” a western that marks one of the two rare times the actor directed himself. It also ended Mr. Douglas’ career somewhat. He never directed another movie, and although he has continued to act, he never hit his previous heights of popularity. The film also came out at the tail end of the Western’s popularity with audiences.

Both Mr. Douglas and his co-star Bruce Dern play against type in the film. Mr. Dern, usually a bad guy, plays a good-hearted bank robber, and Mr. Douglas plays a cynical sheriff who hopes to use the bank robber’s capture and execution to propel himself into the Senate.

Talks began after last October’s award ceremony to arrange a special screening of “Posse.”

The film still holds up, as Mr. Tarantino had hoped, and the audience was very vocal in its enjoyment. SBIFF director Roger Durling briefly appeared to introduce both Mr. Tarantino and Mr. Douglas for a brief post-film “Q and K.”

“What a heck of a movie!” exclaimed Mr. Tarantino, to start off. Mr. Douglas joked that he thought the man on the screen must have been his son, Michael, because he couldn’t remember being so young. “Why did this film end my career as director?” he also wondered out loud.

Mr. Tarantino wanted to discuss “Posse” in depth, but Mr. Douglas admitted he didn’t remember too much about it, claiming that when you’ve made about 90 films (91, according to imdb.com) they kind of blend into each other.

And anyway, Mr. Douglas said, “I don’t want to talk about ‘Posse.’ I want to talk about Inglourious Basterds!” And he went on to complement the director and the movie’s stars, Christoph Waltz and Diane Kruger.

But Mr. Tarantino swung the conversation back to “Posse” and likewise complemented Mr. Douglas’ choice of actors, as the film features some of his favorite actors of that time period, mentioning Bruce Dern, Bo Hopkins, Luke Askew and Jim Stacy. That got Mr. Douglas reminiscing, and he began to talk about directing Bruce Dern, and how Mr. Dern’s Method Acting approach clashed with Douglas’ studio-trained style.

Mr. Douglas also talked about his own role, noting “playing bad guys is more fun,” and then took the audience back to his childhood, watching Tom Mix silent movie serials. “I never realized then that one day, I would be riding a horse,” in the movies, he said.

Mr. Tarantino made some claims about the film, dubbing “Posse” a “post-Watergate” film in its cynicism, and comparing Mr. Douglas’ directorial style to John Sturges (“Last Train from Gun Hill,” “The Magnificent Seven,” and “The Great Escape.”

“That’s a good complement,” Mr. Douglas demurred. “Remember what he says,” he told the audience.

The short chat ended with a sweet moment.

“I’m 93,” the still spry Mr. Douglas said, “It’s very lonely. All of my colleagues are dead. They’ve left me with beautiful memories, but they’re all gone. I have to make some new friends.”

And with that he reached out to Mr. Tarantino.

“Are you my new best friend? Will you direct the next picture in that I act?”

Mr. Tarantino agreed.

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