Nothing shimmered at the Dec. 5 premiere for “Diamonds” in Westwood more than the grace of star Kirk Douglas, who returns to the screen for the first time since his stroke in 1996.
The actor, who turns 83 today, plays a former boxer who takes his son (Dan Aykroyd) and grandson (Corbin Allred) on a road trip to recover 13 diamonds he stole and hid in Reno. The road trip includes an encounter at a house of ill repute overseen by Lauren Bacall, but ultimately becomes a bonding experience for the three generations.
For Douglas, who arrived with wife Anne, it was a perfect fit.
“It’s a powerful role, but it’s not a difficult role,” Douglas said, his speech still affected by the stroke. “Because I play a man recovering from a stroke, and that’s something I know something about. But I love the picture because it has so much humor and so much humanity, so I was very lucky to get the part.”
The film pairs veterans Douglas and Bacall with young faces, including 27-year-old Jenny McCarthy, who plays a prostitute in the film and said she was very nervous about working with the screen legends.
“I wanted to make them proud,” said McCarthy, sporting black curls for her next film role. “As an actress, it was really hard to be in the scene when I wanted to just watch the scene.”
She calls working on the film “the most amazing experience of my life,” but it’s also in reference to her recent marriage to “Diamonds” director John Asher, 28, who says fell in love with McCarthy during a wardrobe fitting.
“It was literally like getting in a car accident, but it feels much better,” Asher said of meeting McCarthy. “It just happens. You have to believe there’s a soul mate out there.”
The guest list was a Who’s Who of classic Hollywood, drawing names such as Karl Malden, Cyd Charisse, Cathy Moriarty and Mariette Hartley. Sally Kirkland said, “Here’s Kirk standing up for all stroke victims, saying … if [he] has the courage to be an actor after that, then we all have the courage.”
“I have learned one thing. All fathers and all grandfathers: You do the best you can,” Douglas said. “But you will never win. What I mean is, you will always make mistakes because in the last analysis, it’s up to each individual.
“My kids are responsible for their actions, so you do the best you can. But you can never be a perfect father or grandfather. My sons can never be perfect sons — although Michael came close,” he joked.
“Diamonds,” released by Miramax, opens for an exclusive one-week Oscar run Dec. 10.