See a Wonderful New Trailer for Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Behind the Candelabra’

This past Saturday I had the great pleasure of watching Steven Soderbergh moderate a Q&A with Shane Carruth after a sold-out mid-afternoon screening of his incredible new film Upstream Color. Of course, Soderbergh, "retired director" asked a sprinkling of serious questions about the film but also went on to question such things as: for all the pigs in the film, why were there no cats? And so on. But when not interviewing beloved young directors for awestruck audiences, Soderbergh is currently putting out the highly-anticipated Liberace drama for HBO, Behind the Candelabra. In an interview back in January, he said that the film was, "really fun. The world of it was just bananas. It was great to see Michael [Douglas] and Matt [Damon] jump off the cliff together. Nobody can accuse them of being shy. They just went for it. It’s pretty gay." 

Douglas and Damon take center stage in the film that focuses on Liberace and Scott Thorson—his companion/lover/friend. And with wonderufl a new trailer released, this looks to surely surpass the glitz and chintz, as the actors provide a deep emotional base for the story as they disappear into their characters. We also get a look at Rob Lowe as a plastic surgeon, Dan Aykroyd as Liberace’s manager, and Debbie Reynolds as Frances Liberace. And although it will be premiering on HBO on May 26th the film will have its debut at Cannes earlier in the month as well.

Check out the new trailer and stills from the film, thanks to The Playlist.

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A Look at ‘Behind the Candelabra,’ HBO’s Fantastically Coiffed Liberace Biopic

Several weeks ago, we were all aflutter at the prospect of David Mamet’s HBO biopic of producer Phil Spector, featuring Al Pacino donning an enormous ‘fro, and then when it aired, we were left shrugging our shoulders about it all. But HBO’s not out of the biopics-of-enigmatic-musical-figures-with-amazing-hair game yet. Over the weekend, we saw another brief but intriguing look at Behind the Candelabra: The Secret Life of Liberace, Steven Soderbergh’s long-brewing made-for-TV film about the life and work of the legendary pianist and entertainer. 

Michael Douglas plays the singer, awash in pompadours and sequins, seen in the teaser grinning and showing off his plumage and trying to channel the charm that made the masses fall in love. But it’s Matt Damon, who plays Liberace’s boyfriend Scott Thorson (who wrote the memoir upon which Soderbergh’s film is based), who steals the trailer, even if he barely says a word. It’s the hair. Somewhere between Starsky and Hutch and Bon Jovi, it’s a sight to behold, staying intact under Sgt. Pepper-style military hats and even while he’s in a hot tub with Douglas, drinking champagne. Man, the ’70s were quite a decade, weren’t they? Watch the teaser for the film, which premieres May 26th, below. 

How To Figure Out If You’re Dating the Kid of a Celebrity

Right before Christmas I met a boy in a bar. He was tall, adorable, and we immediately started chatting about music. Before the night came to an end, we exchanged information and he took my phone to add me as a friend on Facebook. When I noticed his last name, one that isn’t very common, I laughed and jokingly asked if he was the son of the celebrity with the same last name. His response was abrupt and strange: “No. I fucking hate that guy.” Um, OK.

The celebrity in question would not evoke such a response from anyone. Unless, of course, they knew him intimately and, for a fact, that he’s absolute shit. His on-air persona, although sometimes aloof and douchy, does not make one hate him. It just doesn’t. It was when I asked him what his dad did a couple weeks later that I was able to know for sure. Even then he didn’t say who his dad was; it was just obvious at that point. Maybe he doesn’t know that his father is pretty much a legend in our generation, or maybe he just doesn’t give a fuck.

I let it go. I don’t care who is father is; it has zero effect on how I feel about him. But some people do care about this shit. True star-fuckers, if they can’t score the celebrity, will take the offspring if they can.

As someone who has more than a few friends who have found themselves dating the kids or step-kids of celebrities, unless the kid is a show-off asshole, it’s virtually impossible to know exactly from where the person came. The only time the truth comes out is when you show up for a family dinner and find yourself across from say, Michael Douglas, and you’re forced to play it cool. Michael Douglas was in Romancing the Stone! You can’t be cool around that!

So, how do you know? Whether it’s for family dinner preparation or because you’re a greedy, gold-digging fame whore, there are five easy ways to figure it all out. Because sometimes Google can fail you in these circumstances, especially when you’re dealing with a family that does everything within their power to keep their lives private. (Oh, the famous and their I’m-so-special ways!)

“I fucking hate that guy.” The last name is a dead giveaway, especially if it’s not common. And if you do what I did and jokingly ask if there’s any relation, not thinking for one second there actually is, and the response is something aggressive out of left field, then, well, you’ve got yourself a celebrity’s kid.

Mannerism dissection. A lot of suspicion can be put to bed if you pay attention to mannerisms. Let’s say you’re dating Jack Nicholson’s kid. Now we all know Jack is known for his eyebrows and that Joker-like, crazy grin (even sans Batman make-up), so a lot of questions can be answered if you focus on these details. You’re not staring; you’re appreciating the similarities.

Mild detective skills. If you don’t know what the hell people are talking about when they mention Benson and Stabler, then you need to watch some episodes of Law & Order to truly grasp this maneuver. Where does this person live that you’re dating? Do they just happen to go on a family vacation the same time [celebrity name] was spotted by the paparazzi at the same place? Is their dad “working” at some concert the exact dates that such-and such-band is playing Coachella?

Is their life one of privilege? In NYC, the privileged are a pretty frequent lot. But there’s also a big difference between the privileged and the very privileged. Does this person in question have things in their apartment that others would kill for—like random photos of his mom at Studio 54 with Halston? Did Nirvana play his twelfth birthday? Can he get you into Per Se tonight at 8 PM no problem?

Straight up insult the celebrity in question. Even if the kid is on the outs with their celebrity parents, they won’t put up with someone else talking shit about their mom or dad. Case in point, as proven by a friend of mine: “I was going on and on about how much of a fucking asshole [celebrity name] is. I was criticizing his movies, his style and even his hair, finally D—snapped and exclaimed, ‘that’s my fucking dad! So keep your opinions to yourself.’ I knew it was just a matter of time before he’d have to give up the goods. And his dad does have bad hair.”

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Steven Soderbergh Says Film Criticism is Like Air Guitar and His Liberace Movie is ‘Pretty Gay’

Steven Soderbergh isn’t going anywhere. He may be quitting Hollywood to pursue other artistic ventures but the director who has given us 26 films since his 1989 debut, still has a lot to say for himself. "Just to be clear, I won’t be directing ‘cinema,’ for lack of a better word. But I plan to direct—theater stuff, and I’d do a TV series if something great were to come along," Soderbergh told Mary Kate Schilling in an extensive and thought-provoking interview with the 50-year-old director in conjunction with the release of his second to last film (possibly ever) Side Effects.

The article offers a pretty fascinating look into the mind of someone who has not only made some of the best films of the last few decades but has been able to morph his aesthetic into whatever genre his films play into while always giving us his signature fierce, layered, and thrlling sense of life that continues to intruige audiences. Although I reccommend you read the interview in its entirely, here are some of the highlights.

Soderbergh’s thoughts on film criticism:
It’s what Dave Hickey said: It’s air guitar, ultimately. Was it helpful to read Pauline Kael’s work when I was growing up? Absolutely. For a teenager who was beginning to look at movies as something other than just entertainment, her reviews were really interesting. But at a certain point, it’s not useful anymore. I stopped reading reviews of my own films after Traffic, and I find it hard to read any critics now because they are just so easily fooled. From a directorial standpoint, you can’t throw one by me. I know if you know what you’re doing, and, “Wow, critics”—their reading of filmmaking is very superficial. Look, nothing excites me more than a good film. It makes me want to make something good. But I have certain standards, and I don’t grade on a curve. If you want to be a director, I’m going to treat you like I treat everybody. So it’s frustrating when critics praise things that I feel are not up to snuff.

I think [Kael] reading of that stuff was pretty superficial as well. She had a great gift for setting movies in cultural context, but what set her apart from most critics—and especially a lot of critics today—was that she was at her absolute best when she loved something. And that was exciting to read. Nowadays, I find critics to be very facile when they don’t like a film, but when they do like something they get tongue-tied.

On being a filmmaker:
On the few occasions where I’ve talked to film students, one of the things I stress, in addition to learning your craft, is how you behave as a person. For the most part, our lives are about telling stories. So I ask them, “What are the stories you want people to tell about you?” Because at a certain point, your ability to get a job could turn on the stories people tell about you. The reason [then–Universal Pictures chief] Casey Silver put me up for [1998’s] Out of Sight after I’d had five flops in a row was because he liked me personally. He also knew I was a responsible filmmaker, and if I got that job, the next time he’d see me was when we screened the movie. If I’m an asshole, then I don’t get that job. Character counts. That’s a long way of saying, “If you can be known as someone who can attract talent, that’s a big plus.”

The worst development in filmmaking—particularly in the last five years—is how badly directors are treated. It’s become absolutely horrible the way the people with the money decide they can fart in the kitchen, to put it bluntly. It’s not just studios—it’s anyone who is ­financing a film. I guess I don’t understand the assumption that the director is presumptively wrong about what the audience wants or needs when they are the first audience, in a way. And probably got into making movies ­because of being in that audience. But an alarming thing I learned during Contagion is that the people who pay to make the movies and the audiences who see them are actually very much in sync. I remember during previews how upset the audience was by the Jude Law character. The fact that he created a sort of mixed reaction was viewed as a flaw in the filmmaking. Not, “Oh, that’s interesting, I’m not sure if this guy is an asshole or a hero.” People were really annoyed by that. And I thought, Wow, so ambiguity is not on the table anymore. They were angry.

On transitioning to directing theater:
We’ve talked about what skill set is transferable from one to the other. But whatever I do in the theater, the pieces have to be original pieces. In order for me to take advantage of what I can do, it would be pointless for me to do straight plays or revivals. The projects have to be something that I’ve been involved in creating from scratch, so I can use the sensibility I’ve developed as a filmmaker. I don’t have the background in pure stage craft. 

I just saw this great production at the Irish Rep—“A Celebration of Harold Pinter,” starring Julian Sands.  I like Pinter a lot, maybe because his work reminds me of my own home growing up. There was all this unspoken heaviness going on, but everything happened off camera. We knew my parents weren’t getting along, but they kept it to themselves, which was in fact a very generous thing for them to have done. And good for my career!

On the inspiration for Magic Mike and Matthew McConaughey’s character:
Saturday Night Fever was our model. It’s one of those movies people remember differently than what was actually true. Going back, we were startled by how dark it gets. This girl is being raped in the back seat of the car, and Travolta doesn’t really do anything, he just drives around. He does things that you probably wouldn’t want your protagonist doing today.

Matthew understood the part so well and had such good ideas that I had no desire to box him in. So I just said yes to everything, which turned out to be the right way to go. I think the only note I gave him, when I first pitched him the part on the phone, was that his character believed in UFOs…It wasn’t a way of diminishing the character. It was actually the opposite. My mom was a parapsychologist, so I grew up around that stuff.

On his upcoming HBO film Behind the Candelabra:
It was really fun. The world of it was just bananas. It was great to see Michael [Douglas] and Matt [Damon] jump off the cliff together. Nobody can accuse them of being shy. They just went for it. It’s pretty gay.

On other filmmakers he’s interested in:
Shane Carruth. He did the film Primer, and he’s got a terrific new movie at Sundance. And I’m acting as a presenter on the new Godfrey Reggio film [Visitors], which is exciting. I mean, this is a guy who doesn’t build a film based on other things he’s seen, like I do. It’s his own thing.

Everyone works in their own way. And as is often the case with people who are unique, the problem isn’t Terrence Malick or Quentin Tarantino, the problem is all the people who came after them and want to be Terrence Malick and Quentin Tarantino. But that’s the way it’s always been.

On his work as a painter:
I go back and forth between portraits and abstracts. I’m not really interested in landscapes or still life. I’m more attracted to faces. In fact, whenever I think of a film I’m about to make, I see a face with a certain expression on it. For my photography, I’ve been studying the work of Duane Michals. He’s famous for these photo ­sequences, which tell stories in a cinematic way. I bought a few of his books, and I’ve begun to think about sequences of my own that suggest a narrative.

I’m always curious to hear how something was made—though I have no interest in why an artist did something, or what his work means. Like with Jackson Pollock: I’m always interested in what kind of paint and canvas he used, I just don’t want to know what he meant. You’re supposed to expand your mind to fit the art, you’re not supposed to chop the art down to fit your mind.

Read the rest here.

Michael Douglas’ Latest Rich Guy Role: Liberace

More often than not, Michael Douglas seems to play a rich guy being cheated on or a rich guy cheating on someone. This isn’t a bad thing–when a movie calls for a wealthy guy caught in some sort of intrigue or drama, Michael Douglas is a casting agent’s best bet to knock it out of the park. His latest rich guy role may be his most challenging: Douglas is set to play Liberace in Steven Soderbergh’s HBO biopic Behind the Candelabra.

Liberace isn’t just any old rich guy, like Dan Gallagher in Fatal Attraction. He’s not a sinister, greedy rich guy like Gordon Gecko or a rich guy ensnared in a twisted game like Nicholas Van Orton in the appropriately titled The Game. Liberace is a rich guy who got rich through his prodigious piano skills and flamboyant lifestyle. The Daily News reports Behind the Candelabra will depict that famously outrageous lifestyle and focus on Liberace’s relationship with his younger lover Scott Thorson, who will be played by Matt Damon.

While a closeted, bedazzled TV pianist may seem like a stretch for Michael Douglas, consider the following Liberace quote from a letter to a critic who panned his music. “Thank you for your very amusing review,” Liberace wrote, “After reading it, in fact, my brother George and I laughed all the way to the bank.” See, he’s all rich guy.

Liberace Biopic ‘Behind the Candelabra’ Headed to HBO

Steven Soderbergh’s long-awaited film based on the later years of the famously extravagant pianist will star Michael Douglas in the lead role and Matt Damon as his young lover, Scott Thorson.

Soderbergh has been attached to the film for nearly four years after expessing interest in Richard LaGravenese’s script based on Thorson’s memoir. Douglas and Damon signed on at the beginning, but the production of the film was stalled after Douglas was diagnosed with throat cancer. Now that he has recovered from his illness, HBO Films has greenlighted the film, and Douglas is ready to tickle those diamond-encrusted ivories (that’s a euphemism, by the way).

The film has shifted from a possible feature film to an HBO original following producer Jerry Weintraub’s appreciation for the HBO documentary about his career, His Way, was completed last year. HBO’s track record of producing critically acclaimed films with A-list stars (see Grey Gardens, for example) also helped the production team decide on a cable release. Says Soderbergh:

From the inception of this project, we’ve had two priorities: getting it right creatively, and getting as many people as possible to see it. HBO’s fearless approach to original programming and their unparalleled ability to pull in viewers make them the perfect fit for us. Apart from my hair growing back, I couldn’t be happier.

The made-for-not-TV-but-HBO film will serve as a boon to the struggling feather and rhinestone industries, and there had better be a sequined codpiece or two. It’s truly a bummer for those longing to see Douglas and Damon doin’ it on the big screen, but we suppose our 42-inch plasma screens will have to do. (Let’s hope we all have a chance to upgrade to 3D TVs by then.)

Links: Joaquin Phoenix Trailer is ‘Here,’ Danielle Staub Fired from ‘Real Housewives’

● Is it real? Is it really real? The first teaser for Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck’s ‘documentary’ has arrived and you can now commence uninformed arguments with your friends. [HuffPo] ● Rooney Mara scored the coveted spot of Lisbeth Salander in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Instantly, she is famous. [EW] ● A photo of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson kissing is like a shot of Sasquatch — blurry, underwhelming and maybe, probably bogus. [Celebuzz]

● The realest of the New Jersey Housewives, Danielle Staub — she of fake lesbian relationship and “prostitution whore!” fame — was asked to leave the show, probably because she’s making everyone really sad. [PopEater] ● Motorcycle man and fan of mistresses Jesse James might be dating tattoo-girl Kat Von D or they just spend a lot of time showing each other their break-up ink. [People] ● Michael Douglas will undergo eight weeks of radiation and chemotherapy to treat throat cancer. [USA Today]

Movie Reviews: ‘Splice’, ‘I Am Love’, ‘Solitary Man’

I Am Love – In the mannered melodrama I Am Love, director Luca Guadagnino invites us into the lives of the moneyed Recchi family through its kitchen. With painstaking, extended close-ups, he focuses on the Recchi servants as they place, with trained precision, flatware on whiteclothed dining tables. All of this structured pomp is a metaphor for the traditions that stifle the spirit of the clan’s gracious matriarch, Emma (Tilda Swinton). But when Emma meets her son’s friend, a chef named Antonio (Edoardo Gabbriellini), she breaks out of her routine and the focus on cutlery disappears. Their initial spark explodes into a full-blown, all-consuming, gorgeous Italian affair, which climaxes when Emma is forced to choose between the stability of her past and her risky, lustful reawakening. As a caged bird desperate to escape, Swinton has never been better. —Nick Haramis

Solitary Man – At 65, Michael Douglas can still walk the walk. Over the opening credits of Solitary Man, he strides through the streets of Manhattan, cutting a trim, handsome figure—and his character, Ben Kalmen, knows it. That’s his problem. Ben is well into his midlife crisis: he has already left his wife (Susan Sarandon), already destroyed his high-powered career and already bedded scores of pretty young things. Broke and unfocused, he is charming to the point of smarminess, a good time to the point of being unethical (he believably and creepily seduces the 18-year-old daughter of his girlfriend, Jordan, played by an icy Mary-Louise Parker). He’s also a liability as a father, grandfather and friend. Needless to say, he’s fun to watch. —Willa Paskin

Looking for Eric – On paper, English director Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric overflows with indie-movie clichés: troubled, middle-aged postman Eric Bishop’s life is falling apart; his sons don’t listen to him—and one of them is mixed up with a gangster; he’s still in love with the woman he left when he was in his twenties; and he’s having conversations with a figment of his imagination (the great Manchester United soccer player, Eric Cantona, who plays himself in the film). The hallucinated life coach even convinces Bishop (Steve Evets) to seize the day and take control of his circumstances. But credit goes to Loach for bringing his characteristic low-key realism to bear on the project, extracting the twee and leaving the sweetness. If the movie’s culmination feels a bit stagey, the naturalistic conversations and good cheer between friends balance it out. —W.P.

Splice – Director Vincenzo Natali’s (Cube) latest film is a cautionary tale, but it’s never clear against what, exactly, we’re being cautioned: Post-millennial parenting? Science as big business? The lust for power? Geneticists Elsa (Sarah Polley) and Clive (Adrien Brody), a young married couple who work for a pharmaceutical company, combine animal DNA to make throbbing slime-blobs. After Elsa throws her own genes into the spin-cycle, she and Clive welcome into the world an ersatz daughter—one with gills and wings—named Dren (Delphine Chanéac). There are moments of sci-fi beauty in the film, which is shot through with all kinds of creature-making tricks, but they’re too infrequent to make up for the story’s icky subplot, in which Clive puts the “orgasm” back in “organism” by bedding his pubescent progeny. —N.H.

Casino Jack and the United States of Money – For a certain kind of scumbag, the life of“über-lobbyist” Jack Abramoff might make for a heartwarming bildungsroman: a college Republican grows up and gets rich shilling for crooked countries, bribing congressmen and screwing over Native American tribes. For everyone else, it’s a sobering look at the sad, corrupt circle-jerk that constitutes modern life in Washington. Oscar winner Alex Gibney’s documentary is far less ham-fisted than the works of his liberal peer Michael Moore, and his use of source material—an email exchange between Abramoff and his co-conspirator Michael Scanlon that includes hilarious frat-boy hip-hop slang like “You da man”—is impeccable. Footage of a dapper, teenage Karl Rove is, on its own, worth the price of admission. —Scott Indrisek

Links: Barack Obama vs. Kanye West, Ed Westwick’s Tattoos

● Joe Jackson has elected himself the new King of Media and demands Kanye West be banned from all award shows and show business in general; it’s what Michael would have wanted. [PopCrunch] ● Barack Obama called Kanye West a “jackass” for his Taylor Swift stunt during a (not so) off-the-record interview with CNBC on Monday. [HuffingtonPost] ● Matt Damon will play Michael Douglas’ lover in the Steven Soderbergh-directed Liberace biopic. This is not a joke. [USAToday]

● Ed Westwick added some unnecessary ink to his arms recently, one being a large feather while the other is a pin-up girl with the words “She’s a Pin-Up” (in case you didn’t get it) on the other arm. [JustJared] ● Christoph Waltz, who stole Inglourious Basterds away from Brad Pitt, has been cast as Seth Rogan’s foe in The Green Hornet. [Variety] ● The Ukrainian government is set to deny Elton John’s bid to adopt an HIV-infected Ukrainian child on the grounds that he is too old, at age 62, to adopt. [News.Au]