Airs on HBO May 26. See full size after the cut.

(EW) Yes, that really is Michael Douglas and Matt Damon under the prosthetic makeup, wigs, and crystal-trimmed suits — all part of their costumes for Behind the Candelabra, the new Steven Soderbergh-directed HBO movie about the stranger-than-fiction romance between Liberace (Douglas) and his young lover, Scott Thorson (Damon) from 1978 to 1982. In this week’s issue, Damon and Douglas give a frank, funny interview about filming one of the weirdest, glitziest gay love stories ever put on film, one that required both actors to do things they’d never done before onscreen. Like, say, wearing a metallic thong — and nothing else. “Every Sunday night, this girl would come to my house and I would stand in my garage and I would hike my boxer briefs up into the crack of my a– and she would give me a spray tan,” explains Damon, who spends plenty of the movie in tiny swimsuits, and wasn’t too excited about his real-life wife seeing his bronzed backside. “We’ve been through three childbirths, we’ve been in the trenches, there are no secrets. But I really wish she didn’t see that. That’s too much.”

Behind the Candelabra is based on Thorson’s 1988 memoir about Liberace’s over-the-top world of palatial houses, extravagant clothes, and secret affairs. (Liberace never publicly came out as gay before dying of AIDS in 1987.) It’s a world that Douglas actually witnessed first-hand, since his father, actor Kirk Douglas, was once Liberace’s neighbor in Palm Springs. “I remember meeting him just in passing, in his convertible with the top down — his hair not moving,” says the actor, who also got advice from one of Liberace’s close friends, Debbie Reynolds, who plays his mother in the film. “She just told me, ‘[Your voice] can never be too nasal.’” The movie is also Douglas’ first role since his cancer diagnosis in 2010, and the actor tells EW that beating the disease and returning to acting has been therapeutic for him. “It was great to get back,” he says. “It gave me a new appreciation for what I do, taking advantage of it.”

As for their sex scenes together (and trust us, the movie has plenty), Damon and Douglas both say that shooting a moment of passion is always awkward, no matter who’s involved. “The scene where I’m behind him and going at him, we did that in one take,” recalls Damon, laughing. “We do it. Cut. There’s a long pause. And then you just hear Steven go, “Well… I have no notes.”


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  • Casey

    Read this great interview with the two. This has to be the movie of the coming year I am most excited about!

    Here’s hoping its half as good as it could be!

  • Kane

    Looks positively glizty rizty flashtastically wonderlicious! Here’s hoping it’ll turn out great but with Michael Douglas I doubt how it couldn’t.

  • Tony

    Major airbrushing on Michael Douglas. He kind of looks like what Justin Timberlake might look like in about 15-20 years.

  • CMG

    I remember being super depressed when it was announced that Michael Douglas had cancer mainly because it threatened this project from happening and the moment he had been attached, I could not see any other actor in the role. So glad it has happened.

    And Damon, who has really aged a lot since the last Bourne film (going from Informant! to Invictus had to do a number on his body), actually looks like he re-found his youth. Maybe it’s the wig.

  • MIkhail Shurygin

    Gayest shit ever) Last Soderbergh film is a sad thing. Douglas and Damon are great and will take all Emmy, Golden Globe, etc.

  • Pablo

    I smell Emmys for Douglas and Damon for this.

  • T Dewey

    I rememebr back in late 1988 when 2 competing TV movies on Liberace aired (one week apart). One starred Victor Garber, who, come to think of it seems to look a bit more like Liberace than Douglas does. But I’m sure Douglas will do fine. The hair seems wrong in the EW pic, but I think he can rise above that. Damon is to be commended for taking on a role like this. No one can accuse him of playing it safe. Kudos to him. This version will certainly be more steamy than the sanitized network versions of 1988!

  • Bryce Forestieri
  • Nic V

    I’m not really sure how I feel about this project and won’t reach that determination until I see it. If I see it.

    What I suggest HBO do next after this debacle is that they make a movie called Plantation. I suggest they hire Viola Davis and Denzel Washington to play the plantation owners and put them in white face. Then they hire Jamie Foxx to play the Overseer and put him in white face. Then they hire Michael Fassbender to play the buck and put him in black face. Then you hire Scarlett Johanssen, Jennifer Lawrence, and say Kate Winslet to play the attractive women that have slept with the plantation owner and put them in black face. Then you hire Sophia Loren to play the old mammie and Sean Connery to play an old man who plays a banjo and put them in black face.

    That’s how I feel about the casting of two straight men to play two gay characters. If this is supposed to be some type of “gay” romp ala how the entertainment industry portrays lesbian and gay characters via commerical television then shame on them. Yeah gay has come a long way but you wouldn’t know it by the wrist flailing and lisping high pitched voices on commercial television.

    This site which has championed the fact that there are not enough good roles available to minorities should be all over this aspect of this project.

  • steve50

    Almost posted the same sentiment yesterday, Nic V, along with an old minstrel show poster. Change my mind at the last minute, thinking ‘what’s the point?’.

    The poster creeps me out on a number of levels.

  • steve50

    Yeah – magazine cover, not poster. That adds a level of creepiness.

    As well, some of the comments are off-putting: ““Well… I have no notes.” Does pronouncing one’s unfamiliarity somehow underline Soderbergh’s hetero-ness? Is it necessary?

  • Bryce Forestieri

    “What I suggest HBO do next after this debacle is that they make a movie called Plantation. I suggest they hire Viola Davis and Denzel Washington to play the plantation owners and put them in white face. Then they hire Jamie Foxx to play the Overseer and put him in white face. Then they hire Michael Fassbender to play the buck and put him in black face. Then you hire Scarlett Johanssen, Jennifer Lawrence, and say Kate Winslet to play the attractive women that have slept with the plantation owner and put them in black face. Then you hire Sophia Loren to play the old mammie and Sean Connery to play an old man who plays a banjo and put them in black face.
    That’s how I feel about the casting of two straight men to play two gay characters.”

    Surreal nonsensical rant of the day lol!
    May I suggest that race ≠ sexual identity

  • Bryce Forestieri

    I suggest you enter “Liberace” into a thing called YouTube search box before being creeped out by this magazine cover and the astonishing fact that it is indeed a magazine cover. Never mind let me rethink the whole think again until I feel offended.

  • david

    I’m looking forward to seein this!!!!!

  • jd3120

    Kane, what happen to you Monday night you let cm punk beat you up you need to show him why your the big red machine

  • shawn pierce

    Cool!!!! Can’t to wait to watch love Matt Damon

  • CMG

    Honestly, how can one make a Liberace movie and have it not come off as ‘minstrel-y’?

    Yes, both men are straight (although Damon was hit with gay rumors years ago and actually did not mind it a bit) but have played gay characters before. They’re both comfortable with their sexuality although hearing what they do is being considered ‘brave’ seems so outdated. I am not sure how getting two gay actors (and it was noted that out actor Victor Garber played Liberace previously) would be some kind of improvement or authenticity. There have been so many gay actors who have played straight and I would never think a straight actor would somehow be better for a specific straight character role. Pretty sure all of the gay male characters in the HBO mini-series of Angels in America were all played by straight actors.

    I doubt Soderbergh is coming from a bad place (unlike say Bennett Miller’s Capote that people went out of their way to praise when I have seen movies more sympathetic to brutal dictators than what Miller was with Capote). He fought long and hard with this project. Originally, he wanted this movie to be a feature that would be distributed to movie theaters but was rejected by the industry that were ‘worried’ about homophobia and selling this movie.

  • david

    Cmg, you make a good point

  • Amanda

    Damon doesnt get enough respect in the business. People’s heads explode when Leo isnt nominated for something and yet ignore the fact that Damon has been overlooked many times as well if not more. I wont go so far to say this is a “brave” role because that term is used too much, but he is definitely not playing it safe.

    Also this was a movie that no studio wanted to make if it didnt have two NAMED actors it would have never been made at all. Sadly there are no gay actors that have the names to get this movie made.

  • wwefilmsguy

    Attention everybody we at WWE films ask that you go see the call this weekend starring Halle berry,Abigail breslin, and WWE star David otunga.

  • I couldn’t decide how to intro this post so I chickened out and went with, “Airs on HBO May 26.” Equivalent to me saying, “Well… I have no notes.”

    I’m ambivalent, but willing to wait and see. HBO biopics tend toward individuals whose behavior is on the outer edge of societal norms. To their credit, they almost always find a sympathetic angle — but there’s a leering aspect that seems calculated to make us squirm. A movie like this looks better in the context of HBO’s tradition of intimate visits with eccentrics than it does standing alone starkly on a magazine stand.

    Imagine a dinner party with HBO’s permutations of Liberace, Phil Spector, Jack Kevorkian, Doris Duke, Temple Grandin, Sarah Palin, Big Edie and Little Edie Beale all seated at the same table. Go ahead and invite Winston Churchill as guest of honor but fasten your seat belts; it’s going to be a bumpy night.

  • Kane

    @Ryan, let us not forget Peter Sellers. I’d pay money to be a fly on the wall.

  • Christophe

    OMG WE HAVE A NEW POPE!!! This time it’s for real people!! It’s the best day of my life! Yeah my life sucks, I know…

  • jd3120

    @Kane hey what’s up Kane the big red machine!!!!!

  • Kane

    Yep that’s me

  • CMG

    Laura Dern’s Katherine Harris in Recount better get a seat at that table too, Ryan!

  • rufussondheim

    It’s not utter genius, but it is enchanting.

    Joseph Gordon Leavitt’s Flickering Lights…!

  • We at can’t wait to watch….

    Arantino Explained (The T is Invisible) … Full review for Django Unchained Oscar winner for Supp Actor & Screenplay!!!

    Thank you Awards Daily!!!

  • Dan

    You are my new hero Nic V, I’m so sick of hearing how BRAVE an actor is to play a gay character, and the stupid questions referring to the uncomfortableness of kissing someone of the same sex, as if you were asked to kiss something inhuman. And yes, all of the actors in Nichols “Angels in America” were straight, and that was unfortunate as well.

  • danemychal

    If this had gotten a silver screen release, you’d have your Hair & Makeup AND Costume Design Oscars already decided.

  • Justin Kirk is bisexual. And he has referenced the stigma attached to not being gay or straight. And I imagine the bulk of that stigma comes from the gay male community. Just a hunch. As far as I know, the rest of the Angels telefilm lead cast are straight.

    As far as behind the candelabra, it looks craptastic. I’ll be there with popcorn in hand. I hope it’s more entertaining than that boring Lindsay lohan “Elizabeth Taylor” mess.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    I for one feel like vomiting when I see a gay actor playing straight. Everyone should stay in their fucking corner.

  • glimmer

    kane,don’t feel bad because halle berry won’t return your calls.

  • Question Mark

    Say what you will about Soderbergh but man, talk about prolific. According to IMDB, he’s made eight features, a documentary and a documentary short since the beginning of 2009.

    Re: the “gay actors should play these roles” debate. I’d reckon that, given how hard Soderbergh had to fight to get this film made, he could only get it finalized with big names like Douglas and Damon on board. While I’m sure you could find two out gay actors that would’ve been just as good in the roles, I don’t think you could’ve found two who match Douglas/Damon’s star power.

  • Richard Chamberlain made millions of heart swoon when he played a priest in lust with a woman in the TV-mini-series The Thorn Birds.

    Neil Patrick Harris and Jim Parsons have a ham as straight men in their respective sit-coms.

    John Travolta become a huge star playing straight in Saturday Night Fever and Grease. I wouldn’t change those films for anything.

  • CMG

    Also Soderbergh lost out of directing his version of Moneyball because it was not going to be exactly by the book in terms of a sports movie that the studio was got to chilling toward (and Bennett Miller’s movie is perfectly adequate but I feel like Soderbergh’s version would had gone straight to the book much more rather than trying to create some melodrama of old school vs. new school that Sorkin’s re-write script gets too over-praised for), despite always having Brad Pitt attached. There has also been those other film projects that did not get off the ground that he details in his interviews with Vulture/New York Magazine. It seems he was aware he needed at least have one passion project toward the end (Magic Mike, Haywire, and Side Effects are fine to even good but each of those seemed to go off without a hitch) to finally get off the ground.

    The Life and Death of Peter Sellers actually was also made with the intention of it being a full-length feature movie in theaters than what it became. Other HBO stuff (although Mildred Pierce made some end of year Top Ten Lists of many art-house inclined film critics) has always been intended for HBO on TV always. Personally, HBO’s quality of late in terms of TV/miniseries has been questionable but because it is HBO it gets the awards attention. I expect nothing less from this.

  • steve50

    Don’t misunderstand – I have the greatest respect for Soderbergh, Damon and Douglas and I’m sure they’ll do a good job. It’s an interesting challenge for all three.

    Never was a fan of Liberace, his entertainment or his self-denial in the face of something that was ravaging many of us at the time.

    My only problems with this particular project have to do with 1) biopics of sensational folk 2) straights in gayface and 3) marketing that uses #1 and #2 as their primary selling points, i.e, these are the two main reasons you should watch.

    So I guess it’s EW/HBO that I have a beef with.

    (yes, CMG – “questionable” lately with regards to HBO quality/choices. The Phil Spector thing looks like ham in a can to me. I hope they get out of the tabloid drama phase soon. Whenever I watch one of their previews lately I feel like I’m waiting my turn to load my on the cashier’s conveyor belt.)

  • steve50

    **load my groceries on the conveyor belt

    (nothing else, just groceries)

  • Nic V

    *****Bryce Forestieri / March 13, 2013
    I for one feel like vomiting when I see a gay actor playing straight. Everyone should stay in their fucking corner.*******

    So you can tell whether an actor is gay or straight by watching them perform in a movie? WOW !!!!!! Like dude where did you get that ability? I mean I could have used you back in the 60’s when I came out to find a date. So do you call this super power you have like gaylavision? Do you have too wear any special costume when you use this gaylavision? I mean do you have wear a sequined dress with a beaded bag?

    But let me see if I understand this correctly. It was a rant when someone complains about Douglas and Damon portraying gay characters considering they’re assumed to be straight. But if a gay man plays a character where he’s straight then he needs to go back to his “corner”.

  • Bryce Forestieri


    who’s your avatar? Montgomery Clift?

  • CMG

    steve50, that Spector movie exactly came to mind. And hearing Jay Roach possibly doing the 2012 election movie is just so lazy, cruise control kind of decision. Give me a Lackawanna Blues, Angels in America, Generation Kill, and John Adams again. Give me something where you get the perfect mix of high art in movie and TV with a kind of epic, marathon movie that European auteurs get to do. Do not give me Emmy-bait, zeitgeist-y, easy to digest stuff. If HBO likes to posit that they are a venue/ground zero for American TV showrunners as auteurs, they really should go that exact direction in their movies and mini-series.

    And I really think Soderbergh is smarter than to make the Liberace-Thorson story not so tabloid-y. In the hands of other filmmakers, I am not so sure.

  • Halden

    Wow, just wow

  • steve50

    CMG – precisely. I’m hoping he delves into some of the real struggles of the characters, not just the sensational.

    HBO has to start digging-up some stories that matter. How about Bradley Manning – conscience versus obligation, how far will a person go to exercise their beliefs and why does it present such a threat? One small man being ground up by the machine, etc. I’m tired of showbiz narcissists, serial killers, and flukey politicians – I want something that makes me think, not just observe.

    Bryce – Dean Stockwell. There was a discussion recently about Long Day’s Journey Into Night and when I went back and read a bit more about it, I saw that still. Love the expression – the (autobiographical O’Neil) aspiring writer dealing with the drug addict mother, drunken/failed father and bullying alcoholic brother. Forgot what a great face he had back then.

  • rufussondheim

    I’m just curious what happened to Welcome to the Goon Squad and The Art of Fielding projects. I was so looking forward to both.

  • steve50

    I thought HBO had bought Art of Fielding awhile ago. Didn’t know about any plans for Goon Squad, though.

  • rufussondheim

    Yeah, they bought a couple of other high profile literary works as well but these two were the most commercially successful.

    Goon Squad would be an enormously difficult project since it travels all over time with many of the same characters. But, if done well, would be amazingly powerful. Sadly, just checking on the Wikipeda page it appears the project is dead.

    Art of Fielding, on the other hand, would be simple and pretty cheap to produce (Just find a small liberal arts school with a baseball field and you got 99% of the sets built for you.) I can’t find anything that says it’s officially dead, but it’s been nearly two years now and still no word of it on the schedule. This makes me sad.

  • Ryan Adams

    Another novel I wish HBO would tackle that’s too sprawling to fit into a feature film: Beautiful Ruins.

    The reason Sasha and dropped offline yesterday is that neither of us could not put this book down. Sasha beat me to end. Now I have 34 pages left and had to stop because I don’t want to let go of it.

  • david

    @Ryan, hey great now that you finished your book can you please something else if I have to look at that picture of Damon and Douglas for another minute I’m goin to have nightmares.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    I wholeheartedly agree with 100% of what is expressed here about the cover.

  • david

    @Bryce, I mean they had this posted for like 3days I mean come on move on and post something else!!!!!!!

  • Kane

    @Glimmer, what are you talking about?

  • glimmer

    kane,i know it may be sort of painful so i don’t blame you for forgetting. 😉

    but we’ll always have this video of your previous actions.

    let’s run this kane thing into the ground. 😉


  • rufussondheim

    Beautiful Ruins has been on my shortlist since its release. I’ve been wanting to read The Financial Lives of Poets first, though, since I like to be chronological if possible. Glad to see you love it so much. I’d expect nothing less from the glowing reviews it got.

  • rufussondheim, I try to not to thrust too much on friends because I know everybody has their own taste and people are perfectly capable of finding their own books to read without my urging. But after only a few pages of Beautiful Ruins I felt this was one Sasha wouldn’t want to miss, and by the end of chapter one I knew for sure this was a first-class recommendation. Sasha literally read it in one day. Left me in the dust. I was awake till 5 a.m. last night catching up. It’s compulsively entertaining. It’s maybe the most romantic novel I’ve read in 10 years. (Partly because I have to be tricked into reading anything romantic).

    After Sasha’s WOW WOW reaction, now I’m more confident recommending Beautiful Ruins as a fine favor for any friend. Pass the word along to anyone you know who love great writing.

    Now I wish somebody would option it for adaptation so then we can all talk about its development prospects in the new Page to Screen coverage we’re inaugurating on the site this year.

  • rufussondheim

    Love the Page to Screen concept!

    I think it’s a unique concept that will bring in all sorts of new blood if the word gets out and the content is worthy. I’ve no doubt it will be a success!

  • Yvette

    On a shallow note, and a presumptuous one –
    I can’t think of two actors less believable in these roles.
    Damon is one-note… its all external, and I find him generally bland, and lacks …something to me. I can’t my finger on it.
    Douglas looks like he might be having fun though, but I hope its more than glitzy romp and overdone prosthetics.

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