MICHAEL DOUGLAS AND MATT DAMON STAR IN HBO FILMS' "BEHIND THE CANDELABRA," EXECUTIVE PRODUCED BY JERRY WEINTRAUB, DIRECTED BY STEVEN SODERBERGH, FROM A SCRIPT BY RICHARD LAGRAVENESE
Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Rob Lowe, Tom Papa,
Paul Reiser And Debbie Reynolds Co-Star
Produced By Gregory Jacobs, Susan Ekins And Michael Polaire
Music Adapted By Marvin Hamlisch
"I don't give concerts. I put on a show."
HBO Films presents BEHIND THE CANDELABRA, starring Academy Award(R) winners Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, executive produced by Emmy(R) winner Jerry Weintraub and directed by Academy Award(R) winner Steven Soderbergh from a script by Oscar(R) nominee Richard LaGravenese.
Before Elvis, before Elton John, Madonna and Lady Gaga, there was Liberace: virtuoso pianist, outrageous entertainer and flamboyant star of stage and television. A name synonymous with showmanship, extravagance and candelabras, he was a world renowned performer with a flair that endeared him to his audiences and created a loyal fan base that spanned his 40-year career of entertaining. Liberace lived lavishly and embraced a lifestyle of excess both on and off stage. In summer 1977, a handsome young stranger named Scott Thorson walked into his dressing room and, despite their age difference and seemingly different worlds, the two embarked on a secretive five-year love affair. BEHIND THE CANDELABRA takes a behind-the-scenes look at their tempestuous relationship - from their first meeting backstage at the Las Vegas Hilton to their bitter and public break-up.
Academy Award(R) winners Michael Douglas ("Wall Street," "Traffic," "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest") and Matt Damon ("Promised Land," "Ocean's Eleven," "Ocean's Twelve," "Ocean's Thirteen") star in HBO Films' BEHIND THE CANDELABRA. Executive produced by Emmy(R)-winning producer Jerry Weintraub ("Ocean's Eleven," "Ocean's Twelve," "Ocean's Thirteen," "The Karate Kid" series, HBO's Emmy(R)-nominated "His Way") and directed by Academy Award(R) winner Steven Soderbergh ("Magic Mike," "Contagion," "Traffic," "Ocean's Eleven," "Ocean's Twelve," "Ocean's Thirteen,") from a script by Oscar(R) nominee Richard LaGravenese ("Water for Elephants," "The Fisher King"), BEHIND THE CANDELABRA is produced by Gregory Jacobs ("Contagion," "The Informant!"), Susan Ekins ("Ocean's Eleven," "Ocean's Twelve," "Ocean's Thirteen," "The Karate Kid" series) and Michael Polaire ("Contagion," "Haywire"). Music for BEHIND THE CANDELABRA was adapted by the late Marvin Hamlisch.
Emmy(R) winner and Oscar(R) nominee Dan Aykroyd ("The Blues Brothers," "Driving Miss Daisy"), Golden Globe winner and Emmy(R) nominee Scott Bakula ("Men of a Certain Age," "The Informant!"), SAG Award winner and multiple Golden Globe nominee Rob Lowe ("Parks and Recreation," "The West Wing"), Tom Papa ("The Informant," "Analyze That"), multiple Emmy(R) and Golden Globe nominee Paul Reiser ("The Things About My Folks," "Mad About You,") and Oscar(R), Golden Globe and Emmy(R) nominee Debbie Reynolds ("Singin' in the Rain," "The Unsinkable Molly Brown") co-star.
ABOUT THE FILM
When executive producer Jerry Weintraub received a call from director Steven Soderbergh, asking his thoughts on Liberace, Weintraub responded with unbridled enthusiasm, noting, "First of all, I knew Liberace and thought he was an extraordinary character way before his time. Secondly, when Steven is interested in doing something, I am immediately interested because he's my favorite director."
Soderbergh was working with Michael Douglas on "Traffic," when the actor did an impromptu impersonation of Liberace between takes. Their interest piqued by the spot-on impression, Soderbergh and producer Greg Jacobs started searching for a Liberace story and were steered in the direction of Scott Thorson's book "Behind the Candelabra." They then took the idea to Weintraub and reached out to "Ocean's Eleven" alumnus Matt Damon to come on board in the role of Thorson. Oscar(R) nominee Richard LaGravenese was brought on to write the script.
Says Soderbergh, "It's important that the people understand that Liberace wasn't a goof. He was a seriously talented, proficient musician. He was a real showman. That kind of ability is rare and it's important that audiences recognize that - otherwise, it just becomes a cartoon, if you don't take it seriously. He was really amazing."
Weintraub credits Soderbergh for being the kind of director who attracts such high caliber actors to the film. Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Rob Lowe, Tom Papa, Paul Reiser and the indefatigable Debbie Reynolds lend their talent to the cast of characters. "Soderbergh is a sought-after director by actors. They want to work with him because he gives them so much," explains Weintraub. "He's just so good with the actors because he's right there at the camera, he's right in their face, and they know he gets it."
Shot in Los Angeles, Palm Springs and Las Vegas, BEHIND THE CANDELABRA is enriched by the authenticity of the filmmaking itself. Many of the locations, the sets, the costumes and the props were connected directly to Liberace. The production filmed in Liberace's L.A. penthouse; in the United Postal Center in West Hollywood, where Scott Thorson worked following the break-up; in Our Lady of Solitude Catholic Church, where Liberace's Palm Springs funeral service was held; and on the stage and in the showroom of the Las Vegas Hilton, where Liberace played.
Production designer Howard Cummings had the daunting task of capturing Liberace's world from 1977 to 1982, needing to create 30 sets depicting the entertainer's life, both onstage and off, in six weeks. Inspired by vast research and hours of watching Liberace footage, Cummings decided to embrace the numerous reflective surfaces depicted as a metaphor for Liberace's life. The mirrored, glittery, sparkly aspect is reinforced throughout the film and every set, whether in the home or on stage, has mirrors, including an enormous one hanging over the stage in the "Dueling Pianos" number.
After Liberace's death, his trademark matching pianos were separated, one going to the museum in Las Vegas and the other making its way to the Baldwin Piano showroom, where it remained until set decorator Barbara Munch walked in and discovered it. For the production of the "Dueling Pianos" number in BEHIND THE CANDELABRA, the two pianos were reunited on stage at the Las Vegas Hilton more than 30 years later. The stadium seating at the renovated Hilton was removed, the floor leveled and banquettes and tables brought in to present the theatre exactly as it was when Liberace played there.
Liberace's Los Angeles penthouse was restored to its original late �70s-early �80s look. Cummings and Munch conducted an exotic scavenger hunt to assemble the pieces of furniture, pianos, art, candelabras, lamps, etc. that once belonged to Liberace. The penthouse was outfitted with some of his actual d�cor, which had made its way to various antique dealers and prop houses over the years. They were able to reproduce the exact layout of furniture and d�cor for the rooms by studying photos kept by the landlord.
Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick, a longtime collaborator of Michael Douglas', was granted access to Liberace's actual costumes and jewelry preserved by the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas. Working closely with Mary Ellen Fields at Bill Hargate Costumes, she designed close replicas of the entertainer's intricately made wardrobe. Both Michael Douglas and Matt Damon have more than 60 changes of wardrobe throughout the film, each custom-made.
Mirojnick worked closely with production designer Cummings to determine which outfit should go with which musical number. Liberace's actual costumes consisted of furs and real, punched stones, causing them to weigh hundreds of pounds. To avoid this discomfort, Mirojnick experimented with various fabrics and decoration, testing their density, their weight, their glitter and shimmer quality, making sure that they read well for the camera and that the stage lighting would make them come alive. For one of his entrances, Liberace wore a $300,000 white virgin fox coat, lined in $100,000 worth of sequins and Austrian crystals, with a 16-foot train. It weighed a hundred pounds and was driven off stage in a mini-Rolls Royce. The coat Michael Douglas wears to replicate that scene is made of fake fur and Austrian crystals and weighs considerably less.
Weintraub was familiar with the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas and approached the chairman and board of directors about borrowing various Liberace memorabilia - cars, pianos, costumes and jewelry - to be used in the film or to turn over to the art, props and costume departments for making exact replicas. The silver Rolls Royce that Matt Damon's character drives onstage during one of Liberace's numbers is actually the same car that Liberace used night after night in his Vegas act. Some of the cars shown parked in Liberace's driveway are also from the Museum.
From the 1950s to 1970s, Liberace was the highest-paid entertainer in the world. His concerts, recordings, motion pictures, TV appearances and endorsements spawned a huge, primarily female, fan base. It was a time when celebrities were gay only in private and a public persona had to be protected. In the 1950s, Liberace sued and won a settlement against a London newspaper for insinuating that he was gay. In the 1980s, Liberace still maintained the illusion of heterosexuality and his life with Scott Thorson remained behind the scenes. When Thorson sued Liberace for palimony after he was turned aside by the entertainer, Liberace continued to deny that he was gay or that they had been lovers. This was one of the things that attracted Weintraub to the material. "I wanted to make a film to show how we've grown," says Weintraub, "to show the progression of our human race, of our country, of all the people in the world about this subject. Same-sex unions are recognized now and permitted in certain places. Being gay has lost its social stigma."
ABOUT THE CAST
Michael Douglas (Liberace), who has more than 40 years of experience in film, television and theater, earned an Academy Award(R) and a Golden Globe for playing Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone's 1987 blockbuster "Wall Street," and received a Golden Globe nomination for the sequel, "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," 23 years later. He also received Golden Globe nominations for "Wonder Boys," "The American President," "The War of the Roses," "Streets of San Francisco" and "Hail, Hero!" and was presented the Cecil B. DeMille Golden Globe Award for outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment in 2004. Douglas has been nominated for four Primetime Emmy(R) Awards, three for "The Streets of San Francisco" and one for a guest actor performance on "Will & Grace." Douglas was named a United Nations Messenger of Peace in 1998, and received an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.
BEHIND THE CANDELABRA reunites Douglas with Steven Soderbergh, having worked with the director in "Traffic" and "Haywire." Douglas' other films include "Solitary Man," "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past," "King of California," "The Sentinel," "The In-Laws," "It Runs in the Family," "Don't Say a Word," "One Night at McCool's," "A Perfect Murder," "The Game," "Disclosure," "Falling Down," "Basic Instinct," "The War of the Roses," "Black Rain," "Fatal Attraction," "A Chorus Line," "The Jewel of the Nile," "Romancing the Stone," "The Star Chamber," "The China Syndrome," "Coma" and the recently completed "Last Vegas," co-starring Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline. Douglas was also seen with his father, Kirk, in the intimate HBO documentary "A Father�A Son�Once Upon a Time in Hollywood."
Douglas is also an accomplished producer. In 1976, he won an Academy Award(R) for producing "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" and in 2009 accepted a Lifetime Achievement in Motion Pictures Award from the Producers Guild of America.
Matt Damon (Scott Thorson) stars in his seventh film for Steven Soderbergh with BEHIND THE CANDELABRA, previously working with him in "The Informant!," "Contagion," "Che," "Ocean's Eleven," "Ocean's Twelve" and "Ocean's Thirteen," and reunites with "Ocean's" executive producer Jerry Weintraub. Damon received Academy Award(R), Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award nominations for "Invictus." "Good Will Hunting" garnered him Academy Award(R) and Golden Globe award nominations and he received Golden Globe award nominations for Soderbergh's "The Informant!", as well as "The Talented Mr. Ripley." Damon starred as Jason Bourne in the thrillers "The Bourne Identity," "The Bourne Supremacy" and "The Bourne Ultimatum."
Damon's credits also include the recent "Promised Land," plus "We Bought a Zoo," "Margaret," "The Adjustment Bureau," "True Grit," "Hereafter," "Green Zone," "The Good Shepherd," "The Departed," "Syriana," "The Brothers Grimm," "Stuck on You," "Gerry," "All the Pretty Horses," "The Legend of Bagger Vance," "Dogma," "Rounders," "Saving Private Ryan," "The Rainmaker," "Chasing Amy," "Courage Under Fire," "Geronimo: An American Legend" and "School Ties."
He also received an Academy Award(R) and a Golden Globe Award for co-writing "Good Will Hunting," and was nominated for three Primetime Emmy(R) Awards for executive producing the three season of the documentary series "Project Greenlight."
Dan Aykroyd (Seymour Heller) was nominated for an Academy Award(R) for "Driving Miss Daisy," and a Primetime Emmy(R) for "Saturday Night Live," and shares a Primetime Emmy(R) win with his fellow "Saturday Night Live" writers. Aykroyd has written and starred in such films as "Ghostbusters," "Ghostbusters II," "The Blues Brothers" and "Coneheads." He also appeared in "The Campaign," "50 First Dates," "Crossroads," "Pearl Harbor," "The House of Mirth," "The Blues Brothers 2000," "Gross Pointe Blank," "My Girl" 1 and 2, "Chaplin," "Sneakers," "My Stepmother Is an Alien," "Caddyshack II," "The Great Outdoors," "Dragnet," "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," "Trading Places," "Neighbors" and "1941," among others.
Scott Bakula (Bob Black) starred in the series "Men of a Certain Age" and "Chuck." In 1992 he won a Golden Globe for playing Dr. Sam Beckett in the TV series "Quantum Leap," and received two additional Golden Globe nominations and four Primetime Emmy(R) nominations for the same role. Bakula's film credits include "American Beauty," "Life as a House," "Necessary Roughness," the animated "Cats Don't Dance" and Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant!"
Rob Lowe (Dr. Jack Startz) currently stars as Chris Traeger in the comedy series "Parks and Recreation." He received a Primetime Emmy(R) nomination and four Golden Globe nominations for "The West Wing," and shares two Screen Actors Guild awards for Best Ensemble with his "West Wing" co-stars. Lowe's other TV credits include "Californication," "Drew Peterson: Untouchable," "Young Justice," "Brothers and Sisters," "Perfect Strangers," "�Salem's Lot" and "The Stand." His film credits include "Thank You for Smoking," the "Austin Powers" films, "Contact," "Mulholland Falls," "Tommy Boy," "Wayne's World," "Illegally Yours," "Masquerade," "Square Dance," "About Last Night�" "Youngblood," "St. Elmo's Fire," "Oxford Blues," "The Hotel New Hampshire," "Class" and "The Outsiders," among others.
Tom Papa (Ray Arnett), best known for his standup comedy, has performed on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Late Show with David Letterman," "Conan," "CBS This Morning," "Lopez Tonight," and "Today." His film credits include Stephen Soderbergh's "The Informant!" "Fudgy Wudgy Fudge Face," "The Life Coach," "Analyze That" and the Golden Globe-nominated "Bee Movie." Papa also wrote and hosted the television series "The Marriage Ref."
Paul Reiser (Mr. Felder) earned six Primetime Emmy(R) nominations, four Golden Globe nominations, and two Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for playing Paul Buchman in the hit comedy series "Mad About You." He has appeared in the films "One Night at McCool's," "Bye Bye Love," "Mr. Write," "Family Prayers," "The Marrying Man," "Crazy People," "Cross My Heart," "Beverly Hills Cop" 1 and 2, "Aliens," "Odd Jobs" and Jerry Weintraub's "Diner." His other TV credits include "The Paul Reiser Show," HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Women vs. Men," "Strange Relationships," "The Tower," "My Two Dads," "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color," "George Burns Comedy Week," "From Here to Maternity," "Sunset Limousine" and "Remington Steele."
Debbie Reynolds (Frances Liberace) was an Academy Award(R) and Golden Globe nominee for the title role of "The Unsinkable Molly Brown." She starred in the classic musical "Singin' in the Rain" and went on to star in a multitude of other films. Reynolds' films "Bundle of Joy" and "Mother" as well as her TV show, "The Debbie Reynolds Show," earned her more Golden Globe nominations. The Hollywood Foreign Press recognized her in 1951 with the Most Promising Newcomer Golden Globe Award after she appeared in "Three Little Words."
Her long list of film credits also includes "One for the Money," "In & Out," "Mother," "The Bodyguard," "Charlotte's Web," "Divorce American Style," "The Singing Nun," "Goodbye Charlie," "Mary, Mary," "My Six Loves," "How the West Was Won," "The Second Time Around," "The Pleasure of His Company," "The Gazebo," "The Mating Game," "This Happy Feeling," "Tammy and the Bachelor," "The Catered Affair," "The Tender Trap," "Susan Slept Here," "The Affairs of Dobie Gillis" and "The Daughter of Rosie O'Grady." She also appeared in "The Christmas Wish" and the "Halloweentown" TV movies.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
Jerry Weintraub (executive producer), subject of the HBO documentary "His Way" and the bestselling autobiography "When I Stop Talking, You'll Know I'm Dead," has been a staple in show business for more than five decades. Weintraub began his career as a concert promoter, working with the likes of Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Neil Diamond and John Denver. He received Primetime Emmy nominations five years in a row, from 1974 to 1978 for the music specials "The John Denver Show," "An Evening with John Denver," "Rocky Mountain Christmas," "Neil Diamond: Love at the Greek" and "Neil Diamond: I'm Glad You're Here with Me Tonight," respectively, winning for 1974's "An Evening with John Denver."
Weintraub reunites with Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon, the director and star of his hit film series, "Ocean's Eleven," Ocean's Twelve" and "Ocean's Thirteen," for BEHIND THE CANDELABRA. His producing credits also include the "Karate Kid" trilogy, "Nancy Drew," "The Independent," "The Soldier," "The Avengers," "Vegas Vacation," "The Specialist," "The Next Karate Kid," "Pure Country," "My Stepmother Is an Alien," "Happy New Year," "Diner," "All Night Long," "Cruising," "Oh, God!", "September 30, 1955" and "Nashville." His TV credits include the HBO documentary "41," plus "The Cowboy and the Ballerina," "The Karate Kid," "Rocky Mountain Holiday with John Denver and the Muppets," "John Denver: The Higher We Fly," "John Denver: Music and the Mountains," "The Carpenters: Music, Music, Music," "Rocky Mountain Reunion," "Dorothy Hamill Presents Winners," "The Dorothy Hamill Special," "Father O Father," "John Denver and Friend" and "Frank Sinatra: The Main Event."
Steven Soderbergh (director) reunites with Michael Douglas ("Traffic," "Haywire") and Matt Damon ("The Informant!", "Contagion," "Ocean's Eleven," "Ocean's "Twelve" and "Ocean's Thirteen"), as well as executive producer Jerry Weintraub, on BEHIND THE CANDELABRA. Soderbergh won an Academy Award(R) for Best Director for "Traffic" in 2000, earning dual Best Director Oscar(R) nominations that year, also receiving a nomination for "Erin Brockovich." Soderbergh's feature film directorial debut, "Sex, Lies, and Videotape," garnered him an Academy Award(R) nomination for Best Original Screenplay. The film also won the Palme d'Or at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.
Soderbergh's recent films include "Magic Mike," "Haywire" and "Contagion." His 2010 feature film "And Everything is Going Fine," documented the life and work of the late performance artist Spalding Gray, with whom Soderbergh previously worked on "Gray's Anatomy" and "King of the Hill."
Among his other credits are "The Girlfriend Experience," "Che," "The Good German," "Bubble," "Solaris," "Full Frontal," "The Limey," "Out of Sight," "Schizopolis," "The Underneath" and "Kafka." His film "Equilibrium" was one of a trio of short eroticism-themed films released as "Eros," and also included segments directed by Michelangelo Antonioni and Wong Kar-wai. "Eros" premiered at the 2004 Venice Film Festival.
Soderbergh has produced or executive produced a wide range of features, including Lynne Ramsay's "We Need to Talk About Kevin"; "His Way," the HBO documentary on Jerry Weintraub, directed by Douglas McGrath; Brian Koppelman and David Levien's "Solitary Man"; Todd Haynes' "I'm Not There" and "Far from Heaven"; Tony Gilroy's "Michael Clayton"; Marina Zenovich's HBO documentary "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired"; Gregory Jacobs' "Wind Chill" and "Criminal"; George Clooney's "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"; Richard Linklater's "A Scanner Darkly"; Rob Reiner's "Rumor Has It..."; Stephen Gaghan's "Syriana"; Lodge Kerrigan's "Keane"; John Maybury's "The Jacket"; Christopher Nolan's "Insomnia"; Anthony and Joseph Russo's "Welcome to Collinwood"; Gary Ross' "Pleasantville"; and Greg Mottola's "The Daytrippers."
In December 2009 Soderbergh created and directed the play "Tot Mom" at the Sydney Theatre Company, simultaneously filming "The Last Time I Saw Michael Gregg," an improvised comedy starring the cast of "Tot Mom."
Richard LaGravenese (writer) earned Academy Award(R), BAFTA and Writers Guild of America award nominations for the screenplay of "The Fisher King." His other writing credits include "Water for Elephants," "Beloved," "The Horse Whisperer," "The Mirror Has Two Faces," "Unstrung Heroes," "The Bridges of Madison County," "A Little Princess," "The Ref" and "Rude Awakening." LaGravenese wrote and directed the films "P.S. I Love You," "Freedom Writers," "Paris Je T'aime" and "Living Out Loud." He also directed the documentary "A Decade Under the Influence," which received the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
Gregory Jacobs (producer), a longtime Soderbergh collaborator, worked on such films as "Magic Mike," "Haywire," "Contagion," "The Informant!," "The Good German," "Bubble," "Solaris," "Eros" and "Full Frontal," as well as "Ocean's Twelve" and "Ocean's Thirteen" with Soderbergh and Weintraub. He served as executive producer on "The Girlfriend Experience," "Che" and "Criminal."
Susan Ekins (producer) served as executive producer on the films "The Karate Kid," "Nancy Drew," "Ocean's Eleven," "Ocean's Twelve," "Ocean's Thirteen," "Soldier," "The Avengers" and "Vegas Vacation." Her associate producer credits include "The Specialist," "The Next Karate Kid," "Pure Country," "Reed Down Under" and "The Karate Kid, Part II."
Michael Polaire (producer) was nominated for an AFI Award for the 2001 film "Mulholland Drive." He executive produced Soderbergh's "Haywire" and "Contagion," in addition to "Speaking of Sex" and "The Straight Story." His other production credits include Soderbergh's "The Informant!" and "Solaris," as well as "Another Day in Paradise," "Carrier," "Team America: World Police," "CQ," "A Simple Plan," "Flubber," "Eye for an Eye," "Monolith" and "You Talkin' to Me?"
Marvin Hamlisch (music) achieved his first milestone at age seven, when he became the youngest person ever accepted to the prestigious Juilliard School of Music. He went on to an illustrious composing career that included nominations for 12 Academy Awards(R), 11 Golden Globes, four Grammys, 12 Tonys and seven Primetime Emmys(R), for such films as "The Mirror Has Two Faces," "Shirley Valentine," "Sophie's Choice," "Ice Castles," "Same Time, Next Year," "The Spy Who Loved Me," "Klotch" and Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant!" In 1974 he swept the Academy Awards(R), becoming the first person in history to win Oscars(R) in all three music categories the same year for "The Way We Were," for which he also received a Grammy and Golden Globe. Two years later, he received a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the Broadway production of "A Chorus Line," making him one of only two people to have won Emmy(R), Grammy, Oscar(R), Tony, and Pulitzer Prize Awards. When not composing music for film and television, he could often be found conducting major symphony orchestras. Marvin Hamlisch passed away Aug. 6, 2012. BEHIND THE CANDELABRA was his final film.