Before Benjamin Franklin, Michael Douglas’ Best Biopic Was as Liberace


The big picture

  • Michael Douglas stands out for playing atypical roles, such as Liberace, showing a versatile range.
  • Behind the Candelabras
    captures Liberace's flamboyant personality, vulnerabilities and complex relationships.
  • Douglas delves into the misunderstood aspects of Liberace, showing his need for love and acceptance.

Michael Douglas he doesn't do biopics very often. He currently stars as the inventor and great American founding father, Benjamin Franklinon the new Apple TV+ series, Franklin. If it's half his first foray into playing real-life people, the streamer will have another hit. In Steven Soderberghof 2013 Behind the Candelabrasthe Hollywood icon rolled the dice and took on the role of releasethe inimitable flashy and dazzling musician who wowed audiences with his piano playing skills and unique stage presence spans the late 1930s to the early 1980s.

Douglas has made a tremendous career playing leading men who have a certain swagger and screen presence about them, winning an Academy Award for Best Actor as the alpha finance guru in Oliver Stone's masterpiece . Wall Street. He has also earned millions of dollars for major studies as a crash adventurer Romancing the stone movies and as a tough cop basic instinct. So for a performer with 50 years of bona fide hard-man dramatic roles, playing a closeted gay musician in the twilight of his career is an outlier of what the actor does so well. Only an actor as accomplished and talented as Michael Douglas could pull it off with such incredible aplomb, hitting a home run in the role.

Behind the Candelabras

The film delves into the tumultuous six-year relationship between flamboyant piano virtuoso Liberace and his much younger lover, Scott Thorson. Set against the backdrop of the glittering show business of Las Vegas, the story reveals the extravagance and deception within her private life, highlighting the emotional and legal complications that arise as her partner deteriorates .

Publication date
May 26, 2013

Steven Soderbergh

Execution time
118 minutes

Main genre

Richard LaGravenese, Scott Thorson, Alex Thorleifson

The outrageous true story behind the greatest entertainer in history.

What is “behind the candlesticks”?

Behind the Candelabras is based on the 1988 book of the same name by Scott Thorson and Alex Thorleifson, which is Thorson's take on his nearly five-year wild fling with Liberace. The story sees him go from a small-town animal trainer to living in the lap of luxury as the latest child toy of the flamboyant star, who was then playing a Las Vegas residency. Liberace is in love with the stunning and statuesque young blonde Thorson (Matt Damon) and moves him to his house, gives him a job and has sex with him.

The two are quite happy together at first, but as Scott's drug use becomes more frequent and Liberace's wandering eye and insatiable sexual appetite cause problems, things start to spiral out of control. After a messy breakup, the two are separated for years reunited for the last time when Liberace died of AIDS-related complications in 1987.

Michael Douglas Becomes Liberace in 'Behind the Candelabra'

There are a handful of absolute musts when trying to play a man like Liberace, and Michael Douglas embraces them all, sinking his teeth right into the role. The first requirement is the voice, i Douglas raises his natural baritone several octaves to capture the unmistakable high-pitched, nasal voice.. Second, you have to master Liberace's delicate, almost air-walking gait, which Douglas nails perfectly. The third, however, requires the help of a solid make-up and costume department.

Clothes make the man, which has never been more true than when talking about Liberace. Sequins with sparkling jewels, flowing layers and trains are the order of the day, and Douglas fills them with a style of his own. To top it off, there's a perfectly feathered black wig that sits atop a face that's been cut and pasted too many times to remember. It's all part of becoming the vain and largely misunderstood pianist who changed the way the instrument was played. Douglas addressed how looking the role was essential in an interview with ABC News: “It had to look as real as possible, so we spent a lot of time in the makeup chair… Before you know it, it seems like everything put it together. You put on the right outfit, you have the right hairstyle and you're done!”

Michael Douglas Brings Home Misunderstood Aspects of Liberace in 'Behind the Candelabra'

Michael Douglas in Behind the Candelabra
Image via HBO

Liberace was an interesting man, and that attracted an actor of Douglas' caliber to the role. Her numerous plastic surgeries, wigs, and excessively flowery costumes expressed her need to fight Father Time and keep up appearances. At the same time, however, when he was at home with Thorson, he was very much a physically vulnerable and psychologically fragile human being. In one scene, Scott surprises Liberace in the bathroom without his wig, wearing only a towel. Douglas, who was almost 70 himself, gives birth to a physically frail old man. The remnants of hair on either side of his head are disheveled and his body is frail. The actor embraced his advanced age and used it to prove it beneath the wig and bejeweled suit is a man entering the golden years of his life. Another humorous scene captures Liberace and Scott in bed together after having their last face wash. Thorson can't sleep because Liberace is snoring loudly. She turns to find him sleeping with his eyes open because the surgery has left him unable to close them, which is both a little weird and hilarious at the same time.

Liberace is presented as a revolving door of young male couples and a healthy appetite for sex. Part of the need to continually keep younger men in his orbit had a lot to do with his father abandoning him and his mother at a young age, as these bland sexual encounters and relationships and short-lived they were the only way he knew how to be the father figure he never had. Scott Thorson never met his real parents and was moved around foster homes; his relationship with Liberace began as physical, but became more of a father-son dynamic, as neither knew how a real father was supposed to behave.


Michael Douglas transforms into a founding father in first 'Franklin' trailer.

The limited series premieres this April on Apple TV+.

Douglas plays the role with an underlying element of sadness that also comes from the high and unrealistic expectations of his mother, Frances (Debbie Reynolds). No matter what he did or how much success he experienced, he never felt like he lived up to it. When she dies in the film, Douglas has a telling line while talking to Scott, who tries to comfort him. He's not upset, but tells Scott softly, “I'm free.” Douglas brings to the surface the complexities and nuanced existence of Liberace, which was awarded a Golden Globe and a Primetime Emmy Award for its unprecedented performance. Yes Behind the Candelabras had it been a big-screen release, there's a good chance Douglas would have had two Best Actor Oscars on his mantle instead of one.

Behind the Candelabras is available to see Max.

Look at Max


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *