News / Arts & Entertainment

Liberace Film Spotlights Gay Rights at Cannes

Cast member Michael Douglas during photocall for "Behind the Candelabra" at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, France, May 21, 2013.Cast member Michael Douglas during photocall for "Behind the Candelabra" at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, France, May 21, 2013.
x
Cast member Michael Douglas during photocall for "Behind the Candelabra" at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, France, May 21, 2013.
Cast member Michael Douglas during photocall for "Behind the Candelabra" at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, France, May 21, 2013.
Reuters
The relationship between the flamboyant pianist Liberace and his young lover dazzled at the Cannes film festival on Tuesday and threw the spotlight on gay rights at the movie industry's largest annual gathering.
 
Director Steven Soderbergh said he struggled five years ago to secure funding for "Behind the Candelabra" because some financiers thought the film would only appeal to a gay audience and, at a cost of $25 million, 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.
 
Soderbergh 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.
 
France last month became the 14th country to legalize gay marriage, a move also taken in the United States by Washington D.C. and 12 states. Liberace, a huge celebrity during his lifetime, publicly denied his homosexuality at a time when being gay was widely considered taboo.
 
"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," Soderbergh told a news conference, flanked by Douglas and Damon.
 
"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."
 
Douglas and Damon said they were both keen to work with Soderbergh who has announced his plan to retire from filmmaking after this movie.
 
They were both also impressed by the script based on Thorson's autobiography, "Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace," that was released in 1988, a year after the entertainer's death at age 67 from an AIDS-related disease.
 
Spectacular
In the film, Thorson, a naive 18-year-old farm boy from Wisconsin, meets 58-year-old Liberace in Las Vegas in 1977 and moves in with him, joining his glamorous lifestyle of champagne, jewel-encrusted cars and spectacular wardrobe.
 
An unrecognizable Debbie Reynolds plays Liberace's beloved mother Frances, with her trademark button nose hidden under a prosthetic one, while a wrinkle-free, taut-faced Rob Lowe, is a plastic surgeon who operates on both Liberace and Thorson.
 
The relationship starts to unravel as Thorson becomes addicted to drugs, hawking jewelry given to him by his lover to fund his habit, and the sexually voracious Liberace's interest moves on to other, younger men.
 
The two actors made light of their love scenes, with Douglas joking about asking Damon what flavor lip balm he preferred and Damon saying he could swap stories with Sharon Stone, Glenn Close and Demi Moore after sharing a bed with Douglas.
 
Douglas, whose performance as the primped, toupeed pianist was lauded by critics, said he met Liberace once, in a Rolls Royce convertible while in Palm Springs with his father, the movie star Kirk Douglas.
 
He became emotional, voice breaking and tears in his eyes, when asked how he became involved in the film that Soderbergh first raised with him 13 years ago.
 
"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," said Douglas who was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2010 and needed chemotherapy and radiation treatment.
 
"Behind the Candelabra" will premiere on HBO in the United States on May 26 and open in foreign theatres from June 7.
 
The film is one of 20 movies in the main competition at Cannes vying for the Palme d'Or award for best picture that is presented on Sunday.
 
Soderbergh, 50, who won the Palme d'Or in 1989 with "Sex, Lies and Videotapes," said this was his last movie for a while.
 
"I am absolutely taking a break. I don't know how extended it is going to be but I can't say if this were the last movie I make that I would be unhappy," he said. "It's been a nice run."

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces a Chaotic World and the Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."