Palm Springs Film Fest 2005

When Kirk Douglas accepts a lifetime achievement award Saturdayat the Palm Springs Film Festival’s annual black-tie gala, he’ll be playing to a hometown crowd.

That’s because Douglas, the 87-year-old star of countless films including “Spartacus,” “Lust for Life” and “Champion,” was a longtime Palm Springs resident.

“I lived in a house there for 40 years,” he told Variety in a recent phone interview from one of his current residences in Beverly Hills. “They named a street after me — Kirk Douglas Way, which leads to the airport.”

Douglas’ latest role is in “Illusion,” an indie film from director and co-writer Michael Goorjian, which screens this week at Palm Springs. He plays an ailing father reaching out to his estranged son. “It’s an interesting part, and I like to work with young people,” he allows.

He does so in other ways, too — with regular visits to Kirk Douglas High School in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley, a continuation facility for troubled youth. “I like to go up there and encourage them,” he says.

The past year has been a roller coaster for Douglas, full of happiness, but pierced by tragedy.

In July, he lost his youngest son, Eric, 46, a Manhattan resident who succumbed to substance abuse.

But in May, he and wife Anne celebrated 50 years of marriage with a ceremony before 300 guests at Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills. And last month he saw the Kirk Douglas Theater he endowed (in Culver City, Calif., open with a hit play by Jon Robin Baitz.

Currently spending much time at a second home in Montecito, Calif., Douglas remains engaged in many projects. “I just finished a new book, my ninth,” he says. “I call it, ‘Grow Old With Me.’ It’s my point of view about a lot of things.

“The movie industry has changed so radically — the movies are cartoons now, with all the special effects, but there are so many good actors around. People talk about the ‘good old days,’ but I think, if anything, the actors are getting better.”

Asked about this year’s movies, Douglas says he admired “Kinsey,” “Ray” and “Being Julia,” but admits he’s got some catching up to do. “I’m going to start watching them on DVDs at home this week — I’m very behind on that.”

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