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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Joe Taylor sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his distinction as New York’s “Subway Idol,” and how he beat out thousands for that title. Joe performs several songs from his new CD, “Anything’s Possible.”