Television movies rarely generate the sort of buzz that HBO's “Behind the Candelabra” has, but how often do TV movies, even on premium cable, feature Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as lovers?
Premiering at 8 p.m. Sunday, the film revolves around the relationship between Liberace and Scott Thorson, who was his partner for years.
This takes Liberace and Scott from their 1977 meeting, when Liberace was a Vegas headliner and Scott a naive kid, through their five-year relationship, public breakup and eventually Liberace's death from AIDS in 1987.
In the beginning, Scott is 17, which Damon acknowledges is a stretch.
“Seventeen's way out of my range,” Damon says, shaking his head and laughing. “And I said that to Steven (Soderbergh, the director). ‘This is ridiculous!' I am 42.”
Liberace had a penchant for younger men. Much has been made about the sex scenes, and Douglas and Damon, in separate interviews, laugh about it.
Still, what were those steamy scenes like?
“There's anxiety because you don't want to screw it up,” Damon says. “And it is a place where everyone is going to be looking carefully. To me it's much less about the kissing and more about how you are with someone in your most intimate relationship. There's a physical comfort level when you are in the room with your husband or wife. There are no secrets.”
Ideally, what he hoped to achieve “are those intimate moments when there are no cameras around.”
Douglas says, “Call me easy, but we didn't think about it much. I was teasing Matt about his Brazilian tan line on his butt. We just felt comfortable.”
Once Liberace and Scott settle into a relationship, there are sweet domestic scenes, such as watching TV and eating popcorn.
“Together we realized what a true love story it was,” Douglas says. “I am happiest if you forget that is Matt and I. Forget it is two guys. It is two people very much in love and the fights, the squabbles and things that go on.”
Soderbergh does a terrific job of showing the day-to-day lives of the couple, but it was an unusual setup because Liberace had been such a huge star and lived so large. He wore a $300,000 white virgin fox coat, lined with $100,000 in crystals and sequins.