Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. Behind The Candelabra.
After watching the latest trailer from the upcoming Steven Soderbergh helmed made-for-TV biopic, seeing it has become something of a priority.
In it, Douglas stars as the showman pianist-singer Wladziu Valentino Liberace — otherwise known as Liberace — while Damon plays his lover Scott Thornson.
The pair met in 1977 and had an intimate relationship for five years, beginning when Thorson was just 17.
The film will trace their unevenly matched relationship, the homophobia of the time, descent into tabloid acrimony, and Liberace’s eventual battle with AIDS-related pneumonia from which he died at the age of 67 in 1987.
But back to the trailer.
In a word, Douglas is outstanding in it. Helped in no small part by a script that snaps, crackles and fizzes, it’s clear the 68-year-old (and now totally recovered from cancer) threw himself into the role.
In one scene, Douglas [as Liberace] swans into a reception room at his home to greet guests dripping with fur, jewels and (I think a cat), only to apologize with: “I’m sorry I’m so informal.”
The script — based on Thorson’s 1988 autobiography Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace — was penned by Richard LaGravenese (The Mirror Has Two Faces, Bridges Over Madison County, Water for Elephants) and punches well above even that considerable weight with humor, wit and vibrancy.
Earlier this year at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif., Soderbergh spoke of Candelabra’s difficult journey to the small screen:
“They [Hollywood studios] said it was too gay. Everybody. This was after Brokeback Mountain, by the way. Which is not as funny as this movie. I was stunned. It made no sense to any of us.”
In light of this, a hysterical revelation from Douglas inspires further imagined studio executive apoplexy.
“Liberace loved sex and I didn’t have a problem with that,” he told Vulture.
“But, at one point, Steven Soderbergh wanted to show [Liberace] watching a gay porno, I said, ‘Steven—you can’t do this!’ He said, ‘It’s HBO — it’s all right!’ I said, ‘It’s not that: I’d like my kids to see this R-rated movie, but I don’t want to show them a fourteen-inch d**k!’ It was the only thing I objected to, so we cut to different parts of the apartment during the porno.”
As mentioned above, HBO embraced Behind the Candelabra and will screen it on May 26. The film will also premiere at the Cannes Film Festival next week.
Starring Damon, Douglas, Rob Lowe (who looks terrifying as a corroded plastic surgeon ), Dan Akroyd, Paul Reiser and Debbie Reynolds, this is one to watch.