The multiplexes’ loss is HBO’s gain. Steven Soderbergh — he of the Oscar for best director, he who turned a cheesy idea into Magic Mike, the Citizen Kane of male stripper movies — apparently doesn’t have the juice in Hollywood to make gay people seem commercial.
When it was announced a few years ago that Michael Douglas would be starring in Behind the Candelabra, a biopic about flamboyant pianist Liberace (with Matt Damon as his lover), it seemed like Oscar bait, but turns out it’ll have to be Emmy bait: No studios wanted to touch the film.
Keep in mind: It has been seven years since Brokeback Mountain, which, among the five films nominated for best picture that year, was the one with the highest box office gross. This is three years after The Kids Are All Right, another Oscar nominee for best picture, about a lesbian relationship. And after, for that matter, repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” passage of same-sex marriage laws in a fifth of U.S. states and the presence of gay people all throughout our culture.
The reason no studio would touch it? “Too gay,” according to Soderbergh.
Imagine a studio saying a movie starring two Oscar winners, and directed by a third, was “too Jewish” or “too black.” (I can guarantee you, no one has ever said a movie idea was “too stupid” or “too white.”) But that’s what Soderbergh said in an interview with the New York Post. “The studios didn’t know how to sell it. They were scared.”
Instead, the movie will air later this spring on HBO. Sounds like a good time to sign up for HBO if you haven’t already.