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Soderbergh: 'Scared' Studios Thought Liberace Biopic Starring Michael Douglas And Matt Damon Was 'Too Gay'


Steven Soderbergh has been working on a biopic of legendary entertainer Liberace for four years. And for most of those years it seemed that the movie, Beyond the Candelabra, starring mega-stars Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as the singer's secret relationship with Scott Thorson, would be a shoe-in for the Oscars. But no studios would take it. According to Soderbergh, the Hollywood big-wigs were frightened off by all the gayness.

"Nobody would make it," the Traffic and Magic Mike director told the New York Post. "We went to everybody in town. They all said it was too gay. And this is 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."

But the big studios' loss is HBO's gain: "This is a magnet for attention. The whole package to them looked (to HBO) like a slam dunk. The studios didn't know how to sell it. They were scared." For real: this could be HBO's 2013 Game Change, the political biopic of McCain's 2008 election that swept the Emmy Awards.

Soderbergh, Douglas and Damon were on hand yesterday to discuss the movie with the Television Critics Association. Discussing Liberace and Thorson's relationship, a relationship Liberace denied after Thorson revealed all to the press, Douglas described it as a "great love story" destroyed by the closet. "This is a couple that felt for each other. There's a lot of joyful moments; there is humor to it," he said.

And Soderbergh pointed out at the event that while Douglas and Damon's respective portrayals are appropriately over the top, particularly Douglas', he was sure not to over do it.

"I was very anxious that we not make a caricature of either of their characters or the relationship," he said. "The discussions they're having are discussions every couple has. We take the relationship very seriously."

Then, about the closet in which Liberace lived, "It's unfortunate to see the movie through a contemporary lens and know they were not allowed to be as open back then as people are today."

Soderbergh also told the Post that this will be his last movie. He decided to quit filmmaking when he turned 50, and his birthday is a week Monday. "I can feel these things coming," he explained. "I just need a complete reboot."

The Liberace biopic, Beyond the Candelabra, will air this spring.

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  1. My Grandmother was a huge Liberace fan and braved the blue rinse crowds whenever he came to town. Being African American she didn't care that he was "light in the loafers". Hollywood will gladly take your money but their attitude towards us is strictly from the 1950's. I get my movies from a human red box nowadays.

    Posted by: DC Arnold | Jan 6, 2013 6:20:05 AM

  2. My horrendously anti-gay grandfather went gaga over L. His reasons were those why he hated gays - and he couldn't see the contradiction.

    On another gay movie, The Birdcage, I remember being the only gay in the audience because I was often the only one laughing. I suspect many straights wanted to see Robin Williams and had no clue about the plot.

    Posted by: Diogenes Arktos | Jan 6, 2013 8:27:42 AM

  3. Too sadly funny to be serious! This could be the makings of a sitcom or a movie!

    Posted by: billmiller | Jan 6, 2013 9:01:31 AM

  4. @DMS,

    Don't talk about things you obviously know nothing about. Your "huge, stinking turd" comment shows your five-year-old mentality. You are way too concerned with defending the studios when they think absolutely nothing of you. Don't come back until you can write like a grown up.

    Posted by: JoJo | Jan 6, 2013 9:23:01 AM

  5. Is there anyone who did not know, or at least suspect, that Liberace was gay? I mean, he "acted" gay in manner and showmanship. A pity thathe could not really be himself; he didn't take his candelabra and flashy costumes to bed. I can picture him fellating his b.f. Scott got the real man, naked and horny. (And he was pretty cute himself.)

    The closet is little more than a cell.

    Posted by: Mikey | Jan 6, 2013 2:17:42 PM

  6. 1] This flick will BOMB. You heard from me first.

    2] I have zero desire to watch a biopic of Liberace. No offense to the [dead] man, I find nothing particularly heroic or noteworthy about him. He was a flamboyant queen in an age when they had to pretend they weren't gay. End of story. On a personal level, he may have been a nice, decent guy, I don't know.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jan 7, 2013 9:57:54 AM

  7. Ratbastard : But isn't there something interesting, in maybe just a cultural/historical way, about one of THE biggest stars of '50's America (on this new thing called Television) being so unbelievably closeted and yet so "out" there? And the development into the Vegas/Scott Thorsen chapter ? I do feel like there is quite a film-worthy story to the whole thing.

    Posted by: Yupp | Jan 7, 2013 11:16:39 AM

  8. Isn't it possible that there simply is a very small audience for this film? I frankly have scant interest in a biopic about a closeted Las Vegas entertainer who died when I was 4 years old. Yawn.

    With all due respect, maybe big studio resistance to this film has less to do with a homophobic agenda, and more to do with executives who know how to count. Barely anyone under 40 knows/cares who Liberace was, much less who he was schtupping.

    Posted by: Lars | Jan 7, 2013 12:58:22 PM

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