Matt Damon Found Onscreen Lover Michael Douglas ‘Very Attractive’ as HBO’s Liberace

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Liberace was over the top and his flamboyance on and offstage was probably years before its time. But, the producers and the cast of HBO’s Behind the Candelabra, a biopic about the legendary pianist, not only wanted to portray that spectacle but also the man and his six-year romance with the younger Scott Thorson.

“It felt like this was a relationship between a man and a woman,” says star Matt Damon, who plays Thorson in the TV movie, at Friday’s Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif.

“You’d feel at moments like ‘This is too intimate, maybe I shouldn’t be here,’” Damon, 42, continues. “But, it’s between a man and a man, and I’ve never seen that movie before. And so it was fun, but we weren’t giggling about it. We took it very seriously.”

Executive produced by Jerry Weintraub (Ocean’s Eleven, The Karate Kid) and directed by Steven Soderbergh (Magic Mike, Erin Brockovich), Behind the Candelabra is based on Thorson’s book of the same title. It covers the secretive relationship between the author and Liberace, played by Michael Douglas, which didn’t end on good terms.

“You’ll find that his whole life is portrayed in the film,” Weintraub explains. “You’ll see everything about Liberace that you could possibly want to see.”

The film goes to great lengths to portray the performer’s life: Shot in Liberace’s Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Las Vegas stomping grounds; constructing 30 different sets; and designing more than 60 costume changes for Douglas and Damon.

“It’s basically a repetition process of looking at a lot of stuff and finding that balance between knowing you’re not an impersonator,” Douglas says of getting into character. “You’re not going to ever be exactly like Liberace and trying to find the balance that makes you comfortable, makes Steven secure, and makes myself attractive to Matt.”

“[Douglas was] very, very attractive,” the Good Will Hunting actor, who goes nude for the role, smiles.

Behind the Candelabra will debut at the Cannes Film Festival before airing on HBO in May.

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