'Spartacus' Liam McIntyre talks marathon and meets Kirk Douglas

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Spartacus-War-of-the-Damned-Liam-McIntyre-horse.jpgOn Thursday, May 31, Australian newcomer Liam McIntyre -- who took over the title role of the rebellious gladiator from the late Andy Whitfield in Starz' sword-and-sandal epic series "Spartacus," in the most recent season, subtitled "Vengeance" -- got to meet the man who truly originated the role ... Kirk Douglas.

"It was the thrill of my life," McIntyre tells Zap2it, calling in on his way to the airport to fly back to work in New Zealand. "Probably in a week or two, I'll realize I had a conversation with Kirk Douglas, like, we knew each other. It's amazing."

Spartacus-Liam-McIntyre-Kirk-Douglas.jpgMcIntyre is currently working on the third season of the show -- fourth, if you count the prequel series, "Gods of the Arena" -- called "Spartacus: War of the Damned," which has also been announced as its last.

Due to premiere in January 2013, it concludes the story of Spartacus' war on Imperial Rome.

"If you thought there were a lot of crazy effects last year," says McIntyre, " this new season's going to be something else."

January is a long ways off, so this Friday, June 8, Starz is offering up the "Spartacus" story so far, airing for the first time in chronological order.

"Spartacus: Gods of the Arena" airs June 8 and 15; "Spartacus: Blood and Sand" (the only season starring Whitfield) airs June 22 and 29, and July 6 and 13; and "Vengeance" airs July 20 and 27, and Aug. 3 and 10.

"That's pretty cool," McIntyre says, "29 episodes, one after another, in chronological order. It's a fantastic show. I'm glad to even be part of it. I'm glad for so many reasons that they kept it going, considering how easily shows can get canceled.

"I can only imagine how big a decision that really was, all that risk, all that money, all that sadness, tragedy, all those things coming together to finally greenlight something again. It's a big honor to be allowed to continue it."

Just after the beginning of the marathon, on Tuesday, June 12, Douglas' 10th book, "I am Spartacus! Making a Film, Breaking the Blacklist," with a foreword by George Clooney, is released in trade paperback and in e-book format, from Open Road Integrated Media.

The 95-year-old Douglas, who starred in the 1960 film "Spartacus" -- directed by Stanley Kubrick and penned by blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo ( given screen credit at Douglas' request) -- took the stage at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in Los Angeles along with McIntyre and Steven S. DeKnight, executive producer of the current incarnation of the tale (click here and here for clips).

"I didn't really believe it," says McIntyre. "I was told by my producer, and I'm like, 'Come on, don't be like that. I'm in the middle of shooting this show, don't joke with me like that.' He's like, 'No, it's actually happening.' Then I had to say, they intercut footage of me with him, and that's not even fair. It's my first gig."

McIntyre even took a souvenir home for his mum.

Spartacus-Liam-McIntyre-Kirk-Douglas-book.jpg"He signed a book for my mother," he says, "because she's a bit sick at the moment, and she was like, 'Well, if you're going to meet Kirk Douglas, if he can sign something, that would be incredible.' I said, 'Don't be silly, Mom, he's getting old, I don't want to torture him into signing things.'

"There he was, and he was happy to. Oh, man, it's great. I think he said something about how she should be proud of me, in what he signed. it was quite nice. He's a real sweetheart."

Taking the chance to seek wisdom from the master, McIntyre recalls, "Just one question I wanted to ask was -- obviously, his wife is so important in his life, such a great influence on him, and I've got my partner of my dreams -- 'Just how do you make that work when you've got to be busy and touring all over the place? What does it mean to have that special someone as you go down this road, because I'm must starting on this track?'

"He told me never to become a producer. It's too much stress, and nobody likes the boss, so everybody hates you. I think he was kidding. He said, basically, 'Enjoy it. Enjoy how lucky you are, and acting is playing. Never forget that.'"

Here's McIntyre's 2012 St. Valentine's Day tweet to his love, an Australian musical-theater star:

ILYErinHasan.png.jpgAsked what he learned from Douglas, McIntyre says, "Just how much being an admirable person can get you through this industry, this crazy game. Even with such a short meeting of him, I can truly admire him. He's still an absolute class act. He's 95, so strong, so committed, so passionate.

Thumbnail image for spartacus-vengeance-poster.jpg"I just want to be friends with him. I wish I lived in a world where that was possible."

McIntyre did quiz Douglas about his gladiator loincloth -- "I'll probably regret asking him" -- and reports that his own leather bikini bottom has been redesigned for the new season.

"It's the same essential thing," he says, "but it's a little more cozy on the baby-making machine."

A former trampoline enthusiast, McIntyre does have a couple of things on the wish list for the final season.

"Spend a weekend with my girlfriend, where I don't have to read a script," he quips. "Oh, you mean, on the show? I'd like to do a kill that involves a backflip, but I don't know that I'll get to do that. It's out there now, so we'll just have to see.

"If you see a backflip kill, then that's happened."
Photo/Video credit: Starz, Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic