Toupee-wearing and more over-dressed than an audience has ever seen him – Michael Douglas takes on the role of gay, flamboyant pianist Liberace in “Behind the Candelabra”.
The film tells the story of the American entertainer and his young lover, Scott Thorson, who is played by Matt Damon.
Director Steven Soderbergh is taking a break, and this is his last movie, at least for now.
The film premiered during the Cannes Film Festival, where Soderbergh, Douglas and Damon spoke at a news conference.
“Behind the Candelabra” coincides with debates about gay marriage taking place in many countries.
“I always try to think, ’50 years from now, what are we going to think of our attitudes right now?’ Fifty years ago, we didn’t even have the Civil Rights Act in the United States, but now, of course, it’s part of our DNA,” said Soderbergh, explaining his choice to make a film about Liberace and Thorson.
“When this issue comes up – of equal rights for gays – I always think, I’m hoping, 50 years from now, we’ll look back on this and wonder why this was even a debate and what took so long,” Soderbergh added.
The movie tells the story of the relationship between the two men. Thorson, an 18-year-old, naive farm boy from Wisconsin, meets 58-year-old Liberace in Las Vegas in 1977. The young beefcake moves in with the entertainer, sharing a glamorous lifestyle that includes jewel-encrusted cars and spectacular clothes and jewelry.
By playing Douglas’ love interest, Damon joked that he is now in good company.
“In terms of being in bed with Michael, I now have things in common with Sharon Stone and that’s really great. Glenn Close – we can all go out and trade stories!” Damon told a laughing audience.
Douglas, whose performance as the piano prodigy has been praised by critics, says he met Liberace once, in a Rolls Royce convertible while in Palm Springs with his father.
Douglas struggled to contain his emotion when he asked about how he became involved in the film Soderbergh first spoke to him about 13 years ago.
“And so for me, this has a, sorry…” Douglas said, as he choked back tears.
Regaining his composure, he continued: “Because it was right after my cancer. And this beautiful gift was handed to me. I’m eternally grateful to Steven and Matt and Jerry (producer Jerry Weintraub) and everybody for waiting for me.”
“Behind the Candelabra” is in the running for the top prize at Cannes – the prestigious Palme d’Or.