REVIEW: ‘Behind the Candelabra’

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Douglas, left, as Lee Liberace, and Matt Damon as Scott Thorson.

That fact has been largely forgotten in the 25 years since he died — still closeted! — of complications from AIDS. By the end (hell, decades before it), he had become a caricature, but the image of the facelifted, lisping Vegas showboy has obscured his humanity.

So its especially impressive that a bunch of straight guys — director Steven Soderbergh, screenwriter Richard LaGravanese, and actors Matt Damon and Michael Douglas — have done do an astonishing job of capturing the truth of gay men in the pre-AIDS, barely-post-Stonewall decade of the 1970s with Behind the Candelabra, the HBO biopic debuting Sunday at 9. They could have soft-pedaled the sex; they could have idealized and mystified the era; they could have taken any number of “safer” routes. Instead, they told a story with such a savvy understanding of gay culture, you might think you’re watching a documentary.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Steven Soderbergh: The gay interview

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Steven Soderbergh, director of ‘Behind the Candelabra’

The new HBO film about Liberace’s relationship with Scott Thorson, Behind the Candelabra, debuts on HBO Sunday; next Friday, I’ll have a review of it. Until then, enjoy Chris Azzopardi’s interview with the film’s director, Steven Soderbergh … who, following this, Side Effects and Magic Mike must be considered the patron saint of gay Hollywood.

By Chris Azzopardi

Steven Soderbergh knows who’s significantly responsible for the major success of his male-stripper romp Magic Mike: gay men eager to ogle the barely-covered bits of Channing Tatum and his hunky posse. The Oscar-winning director’s upcoming feature will obviously court the same audience — and not just because Matt Damon lets it all hang out, too.

Behind the Candelabra the biopic about Liberace, is so gay that major Hollywood studios would have nothing to do with it. HBO took it up, though, and it debuts Sunday. The revealing story stars Michael Douglas as the shiny showman who died of AIDS complications at age 67 and Damon as his much younger beau, Scott Thorson.

In our interview, Soderbergh spoke in depth about their real-life relationship, the “flamboyancy scale” used to guide the actors’ gayness onset, diversity in film and why Damon wanted to flaunt the junk in his trunk.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

WATCH: Michael Douglas on kissing Matt Damon

Michael Douglas is gong from playing oversexed straight men in movies like Fatal Attraction and Basic Instinct to, for his next role, an oversexed gay man playing the title role in Steven Soderbergh’s film, Liberace. Douglas stars opposite Matt Damon as Liberace’s lover, Scott Thorson.

Douglas appeared this week on The View and talked about kissing a man.

The film is due in 2013.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones