"Behind The Candelabra" AcademyAward® winners Steven Soderberg, Michael Douglas, and Matt Damon's collaboration, is a luxurious feast for the senses and a great tribute to Władziu Valentino Liberace or as he is more familiarly known to his fans---Liberace, or Lee to his friends and intimates.
The HBO® movie and it's title are based on Scott Thorson's book of the same name. Thorson was the closeted Liberace's lover.
The movie premieres on HBO® Sunday May 26th 2013 at 9pm #BehindTheCandelabra
HBO® Interview with Michael Douglas
HBO What interested you about this project?
MICHAEL DOUGLAS Well, my fascination has to do with, first of all, the script, which was simply one of the best screenplays I had seen in a long time. So you read a really good script, and they’re asking you to play Liberace, which you don’t get a chance to do every day. And then, oh, by the way, Steven Soderbergh, is going to be directing it. Jerry Weintraub is producing it, and your co-star and lover is Matt Damon. So, where do I sign up?
But for me, this is a full circle, because it’s twelve years ago that I’m making the movie Traffic, with Steven Soderbergh directing. And in the middle of shooting, Steven says to me, have you ever thought about playing Liberace? And I look at him and think: is he messing with me? I’m supposed to be the drug czar in Traffic, and I said: well, it hasn’t ever crossed my mind. So that’s how long ago Steven had been thinking about the project. But it really is a combination of a great script, and being fortunate enough to have such a strong team around you.
HBO What was it like, creating such an intimate relationship with Matt Damon?
MICHAEL DOUGLAS Well, Liberace was one of the biggest stars in America. He was a kind of a phenomenon. He had a warm personality, and was very astute. And, like a lot of men who like young blonde girls, Lee (Liberace) loved young blonde guys. And so the love affair between Lee and Scott (Thorson, Liberace’s lover) was all written there, in the script. So we knew what we were getting into. And I really have to take my hat off to Matt Damon, because he’s in the prime of his career and takes a lot of chances. It’s fine for me, at my age, to play Liberace, and a wonderful opportunity to play a great character. But I’m not in the prime of my career, and I’ve thought, during the show - wow, would I be as brave as Matt, to take on being my lover?
As far as the sexual intimacy, it’s funny, because it can get very campy, and we wanted to keep this story real, and not poke fun at anybody. And we both quickly found a style together. We knew the script called for us to be attracted. And that’s what acting is all about. And everybody always asks, well, do you kiss Matt Damon? I said, baby, I do a lot more than that. [LAUGHS] And so, we just got into it, and had a great working relationship.
HBO The story is set in the late Seventies, early Eighties. It was a different time, a sort of changing time. Liberace’s public persona was very different from his personal life.
MICHAEL DOUGLAS Well, he vehemently protected and defended the fact that he was not gay, and would go after newspapers and magazines, legally. He was very conscious, very smart and astute about his audience. People loved him. So he protected that part. But Behind the Candelabra is about the relationship of Scott and Lee, not a biography of Liberace.
HBO Did you feel transformed when you put on some of those elaborate outfits?
MICHAEL DOUGLAS Yes, it was wonderful. We worked closely with Ellen Mirojnick, our fabulous costume designer, who I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a number of times. She did a great job of replicating Lee’s costumes. I studied tape of his performances, and when you watch them enough you start getting a feeling of how to carry the capes, and move them around. And you begin to feel the joy, the fun that he’s having, and his ability to kind of wink with the audience, and have close contact. It was a gas.
HBO Was Liberace ahead of his time, as a performer?
MICHAEL DOUGLAS Definitely. I mean, when you put him in perspective, he was completely over the top. The shows became grander and grander. But if you look at what Elton John was doing, and Lady Gaga, and Madonna. I’m sure, without them even realizing, a lot of that came from Lee. He enjoyed it so much, and he enjoyed the audience enjoying it with him.
HBO What is it like collaborating with Steven Soderbergh?
MICHAEL DOUGLAS Directing talent is very nebulous. You know, it’s not in front of you like an actor’s performance. Steven casts really well. He likes actors, and he doesn’t say much, if he doesn’t have to. He’s smart. Saying that, you know, he’s also operating the camera. He’s lighting. So, I’ll do anything for him. He never asks very much. So in return, you’re willing to give whatever you can.
HBO Why do you think this is an intriguing story to tell?
MICHAEL DOUGLAS Well, it’s a great love story. And people always love a good love story. The fact that it takes place between two men… the issues that they deal with, what happens, are completely universal.
What I’m most proud of is that you forget about Matt and me pretty quickly, because the story sucks you in so much that you forget it’s about two guys, and you’re just watching a relationship between two people who really love each other.
HBO® Interview with Matt Damon
HBO You can pick and choose the projects you work on - what interested you about this one?
MATT DAMON Steven had told me about it in 2007. And so I knew I was going to do it, because I’ve done seven movies with him, and I basically just work with him whenever I get a chance. And then the script came, and it’s really one of the best scripts I’ve ever read. Richard (LaGravenese) did such a beautiful job.
I’d read Scott Thorson’s book, and Richard just seemed to nail a really interesting dynamic.
|And I think for Michael and I -that was a way in.||We’re both married. |
We’ve both been in relationships awhile, so we could relate.
But Richard wrote such a human script that it was really easy for me to just connect to the character, and the relationship.
And another reason I wanted to do the movie was I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play opposite Michael Douglas. I didn’t want to miss having a front row seat to Michael playing Liberace.
HBO You’ve worked with Steven Soderbergh many times. Tell us a little about his directing style, and how you collaborate with him.
MATT DAMON I’ve never really worked with anybody like Steven. Spielberg is similar, in the sense that, he’s cutting in camera, and making decisions in as decisive a manner as you could ask, which comes from an understanding of how things cut together.
We really wanted to do it justice. But it would’ve been really tough to do take after take of some of these more intimate scenes. It’s a challenge, as an actor, and one that I really wanted to take on. And knowing it was Steven, and knowing that there’s a scene where I have to walk out of a pool, and straddle Michael on a chaise lounge, and start making out with him. We didn’t rehearse it. I just came out in a white, bejeweled, man-kini with a big blonde wig and sunglasses, and we did it in one take.
HBO And I understand that Steven also operates his own camera?
MATT DAMON he’s also the cinematographer, which means he sets all the lights. He’s the camera operator as well, which means he’s the guy holding the camera. So those three jobs that normally three different people do, he does all of them. And he edits the movie as well. So, every night I’d go home, I’d have dinner with my wife and kids, get them to bed, and by the time they were asleep, Steven would’ve uploaded to a website not only what we had shot that day, but the scene, completely cut together.
Normally you’re making a movie in a vacuum. You have a rough idea of how things are going. But with Steven he actually shows you the entire scene, cut, which is a huge advantage as an actor. So when you have someone like Steven, who’s as decisive and inclusive, you really get a better handle on your role.
HBO What was the difference between Liberace’s public persona and his private life?
MATT DAMON Well, his private life bore no resemblance at all to his public life. He was always petrified that he was going to be found out as a gay man. He thought his fans weren’t going to forgive him. I can’t imagine how hard it would’ve been to live in that kind of fear.
HBO Once you put on the costumes, did you feel transformed?
MATT DAMON This was the first movie I ever enjoyed wardrobe fittings on. I did probably eight, ten wardrobe fittings? And we really got into it; it was really fun. The clothes were so different from anything that I’d ever put on. They changed me so much, the way they make me stand, or walk, or move a different way. I really got into it.