Michael Douglas on Sex with Matt Damon: ‘Once You Get That First Kiss In, You are Comfortable’

Michael Douglas talks about playing Liberace  in the upcoming HBO biopic Behind the Candelabra, in a New York magazine cover story.

DouglasSays Douglas, of his love scenes with Matt Damon (who plays his younger lover Scott Thorson):

“Once you get that first kiss in, you are comfortable. Matt and I didn’t rehearse the love scenes. We said, ‘Well—we’ve read the script, haven’t we?’  The hardest thing about sex scenes is that everybody is a judge. I don’t know the last time you murdered somebody or blew anyone’s brains out, but everyone has had sex and probably this morning, which means everyone has an opinion on how it should be done.”

Douglas says the sex is not shied away from:

The sexual content—the gayness of Behind the Candelabra—made it a tough sell to the studios. It was originally conceived as a feature film rather than an HBO movie, but none of the major movie companies wanted to finance the film, which cost only $23 million and featured two major stars. “Everybody loved the script [by Richard LaGravenese, based on Scott Thorson’s memoir of his life with Liberace],” said Jerry Weintraub, the veteran producer who worked with Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra and knew Liberace. “The party line was that Behind the Candelabra would not appeal to anyone who is not gay. Interestingly, they forgot that Liberace’s own audience in the fifties and sixties was not gay. It was purple-haired ladies who loved his act—he knew how to take the audience upside down, sideways, and backward. He was an artist, and yet, when I saw him at his house, he was free and open with his sexuality. There were men in every room! I didn’t care—it just meant there were more women for me!”

Douglas adds, later:

“Liberace worked hard. When Scott Thorson became a drug addict and Liberace’s work was imperiled, their relationship cratered. When I watch the movie, I forget it’s Matt and me pretty quickly. And soon after that, I forget it’s two guys. The fights, the love—it’s a couple. There’s always that moment in a relationship where somebody has gone too far or they’ve done something that can’t be forgotten, and, suddenly, a little tendon is popped, and it never comes back. The only people you can forgive after something like that is your family. Lee tried, but he couldn’t forgive Scott until he was about to die.”

The film premieres May 26 on HBO. Here's the trailer if you missed it.


  1. miss_h says

    remind me why do we need to see a movie about Liberace & his gay lover? ….. the whole movie seems to be oriented towards the hetrosexual community & its fascination with ” gay for pay” actors

  2. Ted B. (Charging Rhino) says

    Remind me why the actors are a generation older than the real people their characters are portraying? …Afraid “Liberace” would be rejected by audiences if they showed that Scott Thorsen was the same age as Justin Beiber?

  3. Dastius Krazitauc says

    For all of the *honesty and bravery* or whatever anyone wants to ascribe to straight Michael Douglas playing gay Liberace, what interested me in the article is Douglas’ insistence that they not show any of the porn film Liberace is watching in one scene. Specifically, Douglas wanted his kids to watch the movie without seeing the large penis in the porn film, so he had Soderbergh change the scene to avoid it. So much for honesty and bravery. He could have just watched the movie with his kids and put his hands over their eyes for that brief moment.

    What about his kids watching the *frank* sexuality the film is lauded for, or the nudity we’ve heard Matt Damon displays?

  4. will says

    The studios were right to pass on this. It may find an audience on HBO, but it would have bombed at the box office. There’s no way I’d pay $13 to see this though I may flip through it on cable.

    We’ve complained about the lack of physical intimacy in gay portrayals in films and tv and now we’ll be treated to semi- explicit love scenes with Liberace. This is karma in a mocking universe.

  5. Matt says

    I never thought of Liberace as a gay icon or hero–I worried as a teenager I would grow up and be like him! There are so many other figures in history that would be better representatives of our communities than him–he was the epitome of how straight people thought of us: gaudy, decadent. Let’s see a film about a gay musical figure who wasn’t a mess; in musical theater there’s the tempestuous relationship between Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim during the making of West Side Story; or in classical music, how about a film about Samuel Barber and his lifelong partner, the composer Menotti (Barber, who wrote the Adagio for strings which everybody knows but few know was written by a gay man); or Henry Cowell, who was broken by being thrown into jail on a “morals charge” but before that was one of this country’s leading avant guard composers in the 1920s and 30s, or Copland, this country’s greatest composer. There are so many choices, yet they chose Liberace…

  6. iban4yesu says

    dk, doll do u work in porn industry? lol

    what’s your stake in this, really? just ah ah’s oh oh’s off the screen is not enuff for you?

  7. iban4yesu says

    matt, dear, so who else was talking about gay icon?

    That monster sued a uk tab and won when they reported he was gay ? so please lets just watch the movie okay?

  8. jamal49 says

    Matt, honey, you could only have been so lucky to have grown up to be like Liberace: talented, famous, wealthy beyond your imagination, with millions of adoring fans. Liberace may have been “closeted” but there isn’t a one of us who didn’t get that Liberace was gay, flamboyantly gay.

    Your problem is that you grew up to be you.

    How very, very sad.

  9. jaragon says

    Yes there are a lot classier gay “heroes” than Liberace- but sometimes saints make dull movie subjects. (and gee how hard can it be to make love to Matt Damon?!) The film might not have been a theatrical blockbuster it’s still the sort of subject matter that has a limited appeal.

  10. Paul R says

    Yeah, Matt, I’m sure the studios would have been falling over themselves to make movies about people that 99% of even gay people don’t know. People at least know who Liberace is.

  11. JONES says

    How bout a film about Alan Turing?
    He helped save the world’s bacon and got castration and death as a reward.
    Nikola Tesla?
    Achilles without making Patrocles his ‘cousin’
    Alexander the Great & Bagoas/Hephastion

    Sad reality is these won’t be done (properly) because they won’t make money for Hollywood.

  12. Caliban says

    To me the more interesting story is how middle America ignored what was so glaringly obvious for so long, that Liberace was gay. It wasn’t so much that they didn’t know he was gay but there was an agreed-upon lie. Middle America would pretend not to know that Liberace was a flaming faggot and he’d entertain them and pretend to be straight. He became a minstrel for straight America.

    I remember my own uncle and aunt going to Vegas when I was a kid. They were the ultimate expression of tacky Americans, he in his powder blue leisure suit with dark contrast stitching, she with her rhinestone glasses and awful GIANT purses. They came home and my uncle was almost shamefaced by how entertained he was by Liberace, making excuses for it almost. He was almost, “I don’t care what anybody thinks! I really liked it!” To me THAT is what’s interesting about Liberace.

    To me his relationship with one particular man isn’t interesting. Whatever twisted, convoluted rationalizations he went through to allow himself him to go through with it, is interesting. Liberace first came to notice when, the 1950s? To me the more interesting story is what the closet did to him, a talented man, and how he was embraced despite being so obviously gay (even if a British tabloid couldn’t prove it).

    I think on one hand that many respected frequent answer about the many jokes made about him, “I cry all the way to the bank.”

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