Liberace biopic wins praise at Cannes Film Festival

THE story of the relationship between the flamboyant pianist Liberace and his young lover yesterday dazzled reviewers at the annual Cannes Film Festival.
Michael Douglas and Matt Damon yesterday at the Cannes Film Festival, where Behind The Candelabra was shown. Picture: Getty ImagesMichael Douglas and Matt Damon yesterday at the Cannes Film Festival, where Behind The Candelabra was shown. Picture: Getty Images
Michael Douglas and Matt Damon yesterday at the Cannes Film Festival, where Behind The Candelabra was shown. Picture: Getty Images

Director Steven Soderbergh revealed how he struggled five years ago to secure funding for the film, Behind the Candelabra, because some financiers thought it would only appeal to a gay audience and, at a cost of $25 million (£17m), would be a financial risk.

Eventually he received financing from Time Warner’s HBO cable channel and made the film with Michael Douglas playing Liberace and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson, with whom the pianist had a secret five-year affair.

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The award-winning director said it was a coincidence that the film was being released during a global debate on gay rights and same-sex marriage but acknowledged that it was very timely.

Speaking in Cannes, he said: “In making the film, the socio-political aspect of it was not really in my mind, but I was focused on … trying to make this relationship as believable and realistic as we could.

“When this issue comes up, of equal rights for gays, I am hoping 50 years from now we will look back on this and wonder why this was even 
a debate and why it took so long.”

Michael Douglas – whose performance as the primped, toupeed pianist was lauded by critics – revealed he met Liberace once, in a Rolls-Royce convertible, while in Palm Springs with his actor father Kirk Douglas.

Douglas jnr, who previously battled throat cancer, became emotional when he was asked how he became involved in the film.

He said: “It was right after my cancer and this beautiful gift was handed to me and I am eternally grateful … to everybody for waiting for me.”