As Steven Soderbergh prepares to take what he now describes as an extended break from filmmaking, he's leaving us with one last piece of film work, the glitzy "Behind the Candelabra." Tracking the tragic relationship between Liberace and his young lover Scott Thorson, it's another challenge for the filmmaker, one that finds him again in distinct territory, allowing him to draw on cinematic and pop cultural history, while creating something new or interesting within that context.
"It was an opportunity to make use of all the hours that I've spent watching melodramas like 'Sunset Boulevard' - anything connected to a certain aesthetic that we associate with camp or just glamour," Soderbergh told PrideSource.
With the finished product now slated to play in competition at the forthcoming Cannes Film Festival, it seems the results may deliver beyond people's expectations, and certainly past those of executives at major Hollywood studios who turned Soderbergh down, citing the picture as being "too gay" to make. "They weren't convinced that anybody who's not gay is going to want to see it. That was really their attitude. It's not like, 'We don't like gay people.' They had concerns about how to sell it," Soderbergh explains. "And when you're just looking at it on paper, and then when you see what Michael and Matt did, I get why they couldn't see it. I was just frustrated that they didn't believe that we could see it."
But he doesn't just lay the blame at the studios for not making the film, saying the general public hasn't exactly voted with their dollars that this is the kind of the movie they'd want to see at the multiplex. "That's more about the culture at large than it is about the studios. They don't give a shit. If movies like this were making a lot of money, that's all they'd be making," the director said. "The reason you don't see more movies made with non-white protagonists as leads is because, in our culture, non-white audiences go in significant numbers to see movies with white protagonists, but white audiences do not return the favor. It's not reciprocal, and that's the only reason that movies lack so much diversity."
Well, HBO Films finally backed it and here we are, and the marketing is in full swing. A new pic has arrived at Out where Soderbergh is interviewed alongside his a gay brother, a hairstylist in Atlanta. A quick featurette has landed from HBO, helping to promote this Making Of special about the movie airing this Friday night on the network, while lastly, ET visited the real Scott Thorson in prison...and spends 75% of the piece focused on Brooke Anderson getting into the jail and leaves out the juiciest, and most controversial quote. "A lot of people would think of him as a child molester," Thorson -- now named Jess Marlow -- said about meeting the performer at age 16. "He baited me with wealth and fame ... Today he would have been arrested for child endangerment."
"Behind the Candelabra" airs on May 26th at 9 p.m.