|Behind the Candelabra|
Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace
|Screenplay by||Richard LaGravenese|
|Directed by||Steven Soderbergh|
|Music by||Marvin Hamlisch|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Editor||Mary Ann Bernard|
|Running time||118 minutes|
|Production company||HBO Films|
Behind the Candelabra is a 2013 American biographical drama film directed by Steven Soderbergh. It dramatizes the last ten years in the life of pianist Liberace and the relationship that he had with Scott Thorson. It is based on Thorson's memoir, Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace (1988). Richard LaGravenese wrote the screenplay. Jerry Weintraub was the executive producer.
It premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival on May 21, 2013, and competed for the Palme d'Or. It aired on HBO on May 26, 2013, and was given a cinematic release in the United Kingdom on June 7, 2013. The film received critical acclaim from television critics, including praise for the performances of Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. It marked the final onscreen acting role for Debbie Reynolds before her death in 2016.
In 1977, 18-year-old Scott Thorson (Matt Damon), who works as an animal trainer for films, meets Bob Black (Scott Bakula), a Hollywood producer, in a gay bar in Los Angeles. At Black's urging, he leaves his adopted home in search of better-paying work. Black introduces Thorson to Liberace (Michael Douglas), who takes an immediate liking to the handsome younger man. Liberace invites the two backstage and then to his luxurious home in Las Vegas.
Thorson observes that one of Liberace's beloved dogs has a temporary form of blindness, and with his veterinary assistant background, informs the famous pianist that he knows how to cure the condition. After treating the dog, Thorson becomes Liberace's "assistant" at the performer's request. Thorson also becomes employed as Liberace's stage chauffeur, driving a Rolls-Royce limousine onto the stage for Liberace's grand entrances.
Thorson moves in with Liberace and becomes his lover. At this point, Thorson says that he is bisexual because he is also attracted to women. Liberace is sympathetic, informing him that he wanted and tried to love women, but was exclusively attracted to men. He relates a story of a "divine healing" in which a "messenger" informed him that God still loved him.
It gradually becomes clear that Liberace is trying to mold Thorson into a younger version of himself. He asks his plastic surgeon, Dr. Jack Startz (Rob Lowe), to transform Scott's face to more closely resemble his own and makes an unsuccessful attempt to formally adopt him. Thorson soon turns to drugs (begun by his usage to recover from his surgery) as he becomes angrier and more frustrated with Liberace trying to control him as well as Liberace's obsession to publicly hide their romance at any cost.
By 1982, Thorson's increasing drug abuse and Liberace's interest in younger men, including dancer Cary James (Boyd Holbrook), creates a rift that ultimately destroys their relationship. When Liberace begins visiting pornographic peep shows and suggests that they each see other people, Thorson becomes upset.
Scott Thorson retains an attorney to seek his financial share of the property by suing Liberace for over $100,000,000 in palimony. As a result, Liberace ends their formal partnership and involves himself with his most recent, and much younger, "assistant". In 1984, Thorson's palimony lawsuit starts where he gives details about his romance for five years with the entertainer, while Liberace flatly denies any sexual relationship.
Not long thereafter, in December 1986, Thorson receives a telephone call from Liberace telling him that he is very sick with what is later revealed to be AIDS and that he would like Thorson to visit him again. Thorson agrees and drives to Liberace's retreat house in Palm Springs, where he and Liberace have one last, emotional conversation. Liberace dies a few months later in February 1987. Thorson attends Liberace's funeral, in which he imagines seeing Liberace performing one last time with his traditional flamboyance, before being lifted to Heaven with a stage harness.
Director Steven Soderbergh first spoke with Michael Douglas about the idea of doing a Liberace film during the production of Traffic (2000), but had trouble figuring out an angle for it that would differentiate it from a traditional biopic. In the summer of 2008, Soderbergh contacted screenwriter Richard LaGravenese with the idea of adapting Scott Thorson's memoir Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace. In September 2008, the project was officially announced with Matt Damon close to signing on to play Thorson and Douglas in talks to portray Liberace.
The following year, Douglas officially signed on to play Liberace alongside Damon. The film spent several years in development while Soderbergh had difficulty securing funding, with Hollywood studios saying it was "too gay". During this time, Douglas and Damon remained adamant that they would appear in the film despite its lengthy development. Ultimately, the film was picked up by HBO Films and shot on a budget of $23 million over thirty days in 2012.
While promoting the film, Soderbergh went on to explain that this would be his last directorial effort for the time being. It is also the last film to feature a musical score by composer Marvin Hamlisch, who died on August 6, 2012.
Scenes set in Las Vegas were filmed at Zsa Zsa Gabor's mansion in Bel Air (interior and some exterior shots) and Siegfried & Roy's mansion in Las Vegas (driveway); Liberace's West Hollywood penthouse had been converted into an office space after his death, but the building's owner convinced the current occupants to temporarily relocate during filming, and the space was returned to Liberace's original design. Performances were filmed at the Las Vegas Hilton, where Liberace once had a residency. Production design was credited to Howard Cummings, and sets were decorated by Barbara Munch Cameron.
The pianos used in the film were also once owned by Liberace; one of the pianos used in the opening scenes had been purchased by Debbie Gibson at the 1988 estate sale. Michael Douglas' head was digitally composited onto the body of Philip Fortenberry for the piano playing performances. Fortenberry, who had entertained audiences at the Liberace Museum, stated the rings needed to be glued to his fingers: "These rings kept flopping around and clicking on the keys."
The film received critical acclaim. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 94%, based on reviews from 108 film critics with an average score of 8.1 out of 10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Affectionate without sacrificing honesty, Behind the Candelabra couples award-worthy performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon with some typically sharp direction from Steven Soderbergh." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 83 based on 30 reviews.
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian gave the film 4/5 stars, saying "As a black comedy, and as a portrait of celebrity loneliness, Behind the Candelabra is very stylish and effective, and Damon and Douglas give supremely entertaining performances."
The film, shown for the first time on American television on May 26, 2013, was watched by 2.4 million US viewers. A further 1.1 million tuned in to watch the repeat immediately after, bringing viewership to 3.5 million in total. When the film debuted on HBO, it achieved the highest ratings for a television film since 2004.
|Artios Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Casting – Television Movie/Mini Series||Carmen Cuba and Wittney Horton||Won|||
|California on Location Awards||Independent Feature Film||Caleb Duffy||Won|||
|Cannes Film Festival||Palme d'Or||Steven Soderbergh||Nominated|| |
|Palm Dog Award||Baby Boy||Won|
|Critics' Choice Television Awards||Best Movie/Miniseries||Won|||
|Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries||Matt Damon||Nominated|
|Dublin Film Critics' Circle Awards||Best Film||6th Place|||
|Best Director||Steven Soderbergh||4th Place|
|Best Actor||Michael Douglas||3rd Place|
|Best Screenplay||Richard LaGravenese||10th Place|
|Hollywood Post Alliance Awards||Outstanding Color Grading – Television||John Daro||Nominated|||
|Online Film & Television Association Awards||Best Motion Picture or Miniseries||Won[a]|||
|Best Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries||Matt Damon||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture or Miniseries||Scott Bakula||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Motion Picture or Miniseries||Steven Soderbergh||Won|
|Best Writing of a Motion Picture or Miniseries||Richard LaGravenese||Won|
|Best Ensemble in a Motion Picture or Miniseries||Nominated|
|Best Cinematography in a Non-Series||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design in a Non-Series||Won|
|Best Editing in a Non-Series||Nominated|
|Best Makeup/Hairstyling in a Non-Series||Won|
|Best Music in a Non-Series||Liberace||Nominated|
|Best New Theme Song in a Series||Nominated|
|Best New Titles Sequence||Nominated|
|Best Production Design in a Non-Series||Nominated|
|Best Sound in a Non-Series||Nominated|
|Best Visual Effects in a Non-Series||Nominated|
|Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Miniseries or Movie||Jerry Weintraub, Gregory Jacobs, Susan Ekins, and Michael Polaire||Won|||
|Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie||Matt Damon||Nominated|
|Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie||Scott Bakula||Nominated|
|Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special||Steven Soderbergh||Won|
|Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special||Richard LaGravenese||Nominated|
|Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards||Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie||Howard Cummings, Patrick M. Sullivan Jr., and Barbara Munch||Won|
|Outstanding Casting for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special||Carmen Cuba||Won|
|Outstanding Cinematography for a Miniseries or Movie||Steven Soderbergh (as Peter Andrews)||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costumes for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special||Ellen Mirojnick and Robert Q. Matthews||Won|
|Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries or a Movie||Marie Larkin, Yvette Stone, Kerrie Smith, and Kay Georgiou||Won|
|Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries or a Movie (Non-Prosthetic)||Kate Biscoe, Deborah Rutherford, Deborah La Mia Denaver,
Christine Beveridge, and Todd Kleitsch
|Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup for a Series, Miniseries, Movie or a Special||Kate Biscoe, Hiroshi Yada, Jamie Kelman, Stephen Kelley,
Chrissie Beveridge, Todd Kleitsch, and Christien Tinsley
|Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Miniseries or a Movie||Steven Soderbergh (as Mary Ann Bernard)||Won|
|Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie||Dennis Towns, Larry Blake, and Thomas Vicari||Won|
|Television Critics Association Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Movies, Miniseries and Specials||Won|||
|American Cinema Editors Awards||Best Edited Miniseries or Motion Picture for Television||Steven Soderbergh (as Mary Ann Bernard)||Won|||
|Art Directors Guild Awards||Excellence in Production Design Award – Television Movie or Mini-Series||Howard Cummings, Patrick M. Sullivan Jr., Eric R. Johnson,
Karen Teneyck, Thomas Machan, John Berger, Eric Sundahl,
Greg Berry, and Barbara Munch
|British Academy Film Awards||Best Actor in a Supporting Role||Matt Damon||Nominated|| |
|Best Adapted Screenplay||Richard LaGravenese||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Ellen Mirojnick||Nominated|
|Best Makeup and Hair||Kate Biscoe and Marie Larkin||Nominated|
|Best Production Design||Howard Cummings and Barbara Munch-Cameron||Nominated|
|Cinema Audio Society Awards||Outstanding Achievement in Sound Mixing for Television Movies and Mini-Series||Dennis Towns, Larry Blake, Thomas Vicari, and Scott Curtis||Won|||
|Costume Designers Guild Awards||Outstanding Made for Television Movie or Miniseries||Ellen Mirojnick||Won|||
|Directors Guild of America Awards||Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Movies for Television and Miniseries||Steven Soderbergh||Won|||
|Dorian Awards||TV Drama of the Year||Won[b]|||
|TV Performance of the Year – Actor||Michael Douglas||Won|
|LGBT TV Show of the Year||Nominated|
|Campy TV Show of the Year||Nominated|
|GLAAD Media Awards||Outstanding TV Movie or Mini-Series||Won|||
|Golden Globe Awards||Best Miniseries or Television Film||Won|||
|Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film||Matt Damon||Nominated|
|Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film||Rob Lowe||Nominated|
|Guild of Music Supervisors Awards||Best Music Supervision in Television Long Form and Movies||Evyen Klean||Won|||
|Irish Film & Television Awards||International Actor||Michael Douglas||Nominated|||
|Jupiter Awards||Best International Actor||Nominated|||
|Location Managers Guild Awards||Outstanding Achievement by a Location Professional – TV Program||Caleb Duffy||Nominated|||
|London Film Critics Circle Awards||Actor of the Year||Michael Douglas||Nominated|||
|Technical Achievement of the Year||Howard Cummings (production design)||Nominated|
|Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards||Best Period and/or Character Hair Styling –
Television Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
|Marie Larkin and Yvette Stone||Won|||
|Best Period and/or Character Makeup –
Television Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television
|Kate Biscoe and Deborah Rutherford||Won|
|People's Choice Awards||Favorite TV Movie/Miniseries||Nominated|||
|Producers Guild of America Awards||David L. Wolper Award for Outstanding Producer of Long-Form Television||Susan Ekins, Gregory Jacobs, Michael Polaire, and Jerry Weintraub||Won|||
|Satellite Awards||Best Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television||Nominated|||
|Best Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television||Matt Damon||Nominated|
|Screen Actors Guild Awards||Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries||Matt Damon||Nominated|||