The hype is building as rave reviews pour in for Behind the Candelabra, the HBO movie written by Richard LaGravenese ’80, which is described in its trailer as telling “the outrageous true story” of legendary performer Liberace.
Premiering on HBO this Sunday, May 26, at 9:00 pm, the film focuses on not only the excessively flamboyant personality and lifestyle of the world-famous Liberace (played by Michael Douglas), but his romantic relationship with his much younger chauffeur Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) that lasted about five years.
“He had a very strong sexual drive that conflicted with his very strong monogamous DNA,” LaGravenese said in an interview with Windy City Media Group. “He didn’t enjoy a very active social life. He was labeled the hardest-working man in show business, and given his act, you don’t doubt it. So at the end of the day, he wanted nothing more than to be at home with the one man he loved.”
At the same time, the film shows how Thorson felt used and was convinced by Liberace to get primitive plastic surgery after meeting creepy-looking surgeon Dr. Jack Startz (Rob Lowe).
“Before long, cocaine is in the mix, as well as Liberace’s passion for pornography and bathhouses,” writes Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe, who calls the film, “one for the ages” and “one of the best” performances of Douglas’ career.
“By the end of the movie, set just after [Liberace’s] death from AIDS in 1987, you feel as though you’ve actually spent time in a room with ‘Lee,’ as Liberace was known to his friends,” Gilbert wrote.
Behind the Candelabra, directed by Steven Soderbergh, is LaGravenese’s adaptation of Thorson’s tell-all book about his relationship with Liberace that shares the same title.
“What’s very important about this story … is that I believe [Liberace] loved Scott and Scott loved him,” LaGravenese said in an interview with WordAndFilm.com. “This wasn’t just another lover he had in a string of lovers. This was, for him, a very important, very real relationship.”
LaGravenese also said it was important to showcase the vast influence of Liberace, who was once the highest paid performer in the world.
“He influenced Cher, he influenced Elvis,” LaGravenese told WordAndFilm.com. “His showmanship really set the ground for people that came after and he was really supportive of young talent.”
Behind the Candelabra will screen in theaters across Europe but not in the United States. In published reports, Soderbergh said that is because Hollywood studios deemed it “too gay.”
“Nobody would make it. We went to everybody in town,” Soderbergh told Yahoo!