If I can get enough signatures, to present an apology to slavery, I will present it to the President. The House of Representatives has already passed the resolution for the apology, but it has to pass the Senate. I think, in spite of all our problems, I think we're in the right direction.
The biggest spur to my interest in art came when I played van Gogh in the biographical film Lust For Life. The role affected me deeply. I was haunted by this talented genius who took his own life, thinking he was a failure. How terrible to paint pictures and feel that no one wants them. How awful it would be to write music that no one wants to hear. Books that no one wants to read. And how would you like to be an actor with no part to play, and no audience to watch you. Poor Vincent-he wrestled with his soul in the wheat field of Auvers-sur-Oise, stacks of his unsold paintings collecting dust in his brother's house. It was all too much for him, and he pulled the trigger and ended it all. My heart ached for van Gogh the afternoon that I played that scene. As I write this, I look up at a poster of his "Irises"-a poster from the Getty Museum. It's a beautiful piece of art with one white iris sticking up among a field of blue ones. They paid a fortune for it, reportedly $53 million. And poor Vincent, in his lifetime, sold only one painting for 400 francs or $80 dollars today. This is what stimulated my interest in buying works of art from living artists. I want them to know while they are alive that I enjoy their paintings hanging on my walls, or their sculptures decorating my garden
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Unfortunately, once I did learn to smoke, I couldn't stop. I escalated to two packs a day very quickly, and stayed that way for about ten years. When I decided to stop, I adopted the method that my father had used when he quit. He would carry a cigarette in his shirt pocket, and every time he felt like smoking, he would pull out the cigarette and confront it: "Who stronger? You? Me?" Always the answer was the same: "I stronger." Back the cigarette would go, until the next craving. It worked for him, and it worked for me.
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Michael [Douglas] is, I think, a great actor. He's made some very interesting pictures. When he was going to college, I was very proud of him, but when he said, 'Dad, I want to be in a play,' he had a bit part. I went to see it and Michael said, 'Dad, how was I?' I said, 'You were terrible.' I thought he would go on to be a lawyer and in three months, he was in another play and I went and, I must admit, he was great. I think he has been good in everything he's done.
Michael [Douglas] was just leaving the TV series The Streets of San Francisco and he said, 'Dad, let me try it.' I thought, 'Well, if I couldn't make it...' So, I gave it to him and he got the money, the director and the cast. The biggest disappointment for me, I always wanted to play McMurphy. They got a young actor, Jack Nicholson. I thought, 'Oh God. He will be terrible.' Then I saw the picture and, of course, he was great in it! That was my biggest disappointment that turned out to be one of the things I'm most proud of because my son Michael did it. I couldn't do it, but Michael did it.
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I was living in a terrible time when people were being accused of being communists, and they attacked the movie industry, especially the writers. People couldn't work if they were on the blacklist. The studios banned them. It was the most onerous period in movie history. I don't think we have ever had a period so dark as that.