Kirk Douglas died on Wednesday at the age of 103, his son Michael told PEOPLE

By Alexia Fernández
February 05, 2020 11:20 PM
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Kirk Douglas was as full of charm in real life as he was in his films.

The Hollywood star, who died on Wednesday at the age of 103, was renowned for his acting talent as well as for his charisma — which came out in full force during the 2011 Academy Awards.

Douglas presented the award for Best Supporting Actress the same year James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosted the show.

“Thank you very much and I want to thank James,” Douglas said at the time. “He looks much better out of the cave,” he added, referring to Franco’s film that year 127 Hours in which he starred as a hiker who becomes stranded in a remote canyon in Utah after a boulder falls on his arm.

“And I want to thank Miss Hathaway,” Douglas continued turning to the actress onstage. “She’s gorgeous! Wow! Where were you when I was making pictures?”

“I have something to confess: I love talented women, and I’m crazy about beautiful women,” the actor quipped. “And now I’m going to give you five of them, the nominees for best supporting actress. Here they are.”

The nominees that year were Melissa Leo, Amy Adams, Hailee Steinfeld, Helena Bonham Carter and Jackie Weaver. Ultimately, Leo, 59, won the Oscar and shared a cute moment on stage with Douglas as he presented her with the award.

“You pinch me,” she told Douglas, who pretended to pinch her on the arm as she came to the realization she’d won an Oscar.

“You’re much more beautiful than you were in The Fighter,” Douglas told her.

Laughing, she replied, “You’re pretty good looking yourself, what’re you doing later on?” which caused laughter around the Dolby Theatre, then known as the Kodak Theatre.

Douglas’ awards show moments stem back years, most memorably when he was presented an honorary Oscar by Steven Spielberg in 1996. (Douglas was nominated for a total of three Oscars beginning in 1950 for his role in Champion, 1953 for The Bad and the Beautiful and in 1957 for Lust for Life.)

Kirk Douglas with son Michael presenting at the 2003 Academy Awards
| Credit: KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/AP/Shutterstock

The honor came two months after he suffered a severe stroke that impaired his ability to speak.

As Douglas walked on stage to accept the award, he thanked his family in his speech.

“I see my four sons. They are proud of the old man,” he said, raising a hand to his sons in the audience, Michael, Joel, Peter and Eric, who died in 2004.

“And I am proud, too. Proud to be a part of Hollywood for 50 years,” Douglas continued. “But this is for my wife, Anne. I love you.”

In a sweet moment, Anne Buydens cried into her hands after her husband thanked her.

“And tonight I love all of you,” Douglas continued. “And I thank all of you for 50 wonderful years. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

In 1991, Douglas was honored with an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, just weeks after surviving a helicopter crash that killed two men and injured three others — including Douglas.

The actor had moving words for his audience as he accepted the award and reflected on his life.

“A very touching evening for me. You know several weeks ago I was in a helicopter crash,” he said, before joking, “They say at such moments your life flashes before you like a movie. I was knocked out, I didn’t see anything.”

He added, “But thank God I got a second chance to see it tonight.”

The actor continued, “At the beginning I was like Champion, trying to punch my way to success. You see, it was easy for me to say a line like, ‘I don’t want to be a — hey you — all my life. I don’t want to hear people calling me Mr.’ But it took me a long time to realize you can’t chase success. The harder you run after it the more it eludes you.”

“Looking back, I realized I was much more successful when I forgot about being a hit,” Douglas said. “When I became immersed in the life of a slave struggling for freedom, a tormented artist fighting to express himself, an artist, by the way, who never knew success in his lifetime.”

“For years, I proclaimed loudly that a movie must be good entertainment, no messages for me, but I’ve changed. It must in some small way touch and improve humanity,” he said.

He then took the time to thank his family — including a young Cameron Douglas, his grandson.

“I thank you all for being here tonight. My wife, Anne, who deserves 75 percent of this award, my four sons: Michael, Joel Peter and Eric, who make me proud,” Douglas said. “But especially my grandson Cameron, who gave up baseball practice to come all the way down from Santa Barbara to watch them give the old man a pat on the back. Thank you very much.”

Douglas made what would be his last awards show appearance alongside his daughter-in-law Catherine Zeta-Jones at the Golden Globe Awards in January 2018.

The two presented the award for best screenplay for a motion picture. Zeta-Jones, 50, began her presentation by honoring her father-in-law, calling him a “living Hollywood legend” for being recognized by the Writers Guild of America in 1991 for ending the Hollywood blacklist and hiring Dalton Trumbo, an accused Communist sympathizer, to write the epic Spartacus.

Douglas praised Zeta-Jones words, saying, “Catherine, you said it all. I want to say a speech, but I don’t want to say it because I could never follow you.”