Michael Douglas and Matt Damon are going Behind the Candelabra in an HBO film focused on the secret five-year affair between Liberace (Douglas), the flamboyant pianist, and the much younger Scott Thurston (Damon), a foster child who became his assistant and lover in 1977. Steven Soderbergh directs the film, due in May, that traces the relationship from their Las Vegas meeting to their bitter breakup.
It’s adapted by Richard LaGravenese from Thurston’s autobiography. Naturally, the film has big hair, big wardrobes and big personalities – Liberace was a precursor to Lady Gaga and Elton John–and doesn’t shy away from the intimacy between the closeted Liberace and his paramour.
“I probably spent more time in ther wardrobe fittings on this thing than I did in (my) previous 15 projects,” Damon says. Thurston “really was taken with the glamour of this lifestyle.”
Douglas calls it “a great love story; these guys really fell for each other. There were a lot of joyful moments but ultimately ending in tragedy.”
Soderbergh (Magic Mike) says “up to that point it was the longest relationship Liberace had, and I was anxious we not make a caricature of either their relationship or their characters. They weren’t allowed to be as open back then as they are today, and that exerted pressure on their relationship.”
“It was so complex, their relationship (and) the power dynamic” between them, Damon says, one rarel y portrayed of two men on screen. Executive producer Jerry Weintraub, who knew Liberace, recalled visiting his home in Palm Springs, Calif., entering through the garage and clambering into a Rolls Royce to be served drinks. Weintraub talked with Thurston, who had no involvement in making the film. Douglas says he also met Liberace briefly there, accompanied by his dad, Kirk. And Debbie Reynolds, who plays Liberace’s mom, knew him well and “had some very spicy stories to tell,” Douglas says.
His also much-younger wife, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, liked the film. But Douglas was just concerned with making himself believably attractice to Damon.
Was he? “Very, very attractive,” Damon says.
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