Liberace

Michael Douglas as Liberace in HBO's Behind the Candelabra

Stephen Soderbergh is doing the press rounds for his upcoming HBO film Behind the Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his lover. During interviews Soderbergh has said that “every studio in town” refused to give them the $5 million they asked for to make the film, so it will have no theatrical release and instead premier on HBO.

Why did everyone turn the film down? According to Soderburgh, because it was “too gay.”

Ahem. When three giant stars like Douglas, Damon and Soderbergh say they’ll do a film for $5 million, it could be the burning on the Muskogee phone book, and studio would hit the green light button. They are basically contributing the immense boxoffice value of their combined names, which I imagine to be somewhere in the tens of millions, in exchange for basically picking up the tab for the honeywagons to show up.

There had to be another piece to the deal, either in profit sharing for the big names (studios don’t like to make that precedent) or commitments to a big marketing budget (putting a film in theaters and running ads can easily cost $30-$40 million). If celebrities are willing to cut their fees in order to make a passion project like Behind the Candelabra, it’s easy to understand that they’d want a studio to commit to making sure people saw it. And once you’re looking at a $40 million all-in pricetag, one can imagine that the studio spreadsheet wizards decided the material was “too gay.”

Stupid, but predictable.

Anyway, hats off to Douglas, Damon and Soderbergh for being willing to make the film, which I can’t wait to see. And double kudos to Damon, for saying he found Michael Douglas “very attractive” as Liberace.