Producer Jerry Weintraub discusses Liberace biopic 'Behind the Candelabra'
There are probably quite a few people who can boast about drinking with Liberace. But only a select number can tell tales about sipping champagne with the flamboyant pianist in the back of his Rolls Royce -- which, when parked in his garage, doubled as a full-service bar. Jerry Weintraub falls into the latter category.
"He sure lived life to the fullest," the 74-year-old Hollywood producer said of the late personality. "He was outrageous -- and the rings on all his fingers were only half of it."
That's where "Behind the Candelabra" comes in. The film, which was recently announced to be heading to HBO, is executive produced by Weintraub and looks at the chaotic relationship between the campy performer and his younger lover Scott Thorson. The movie is based on the book "Behind the Candelabra: My Life," written by Thorson and will feature Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as Thorson.
Born Wladziu Valentino Liberace, the performer was a staple of early 1950s television with his kitschy style (often highlighted by scores of rings on each hand) and the way he tinkled his fingers against the piano keys. He went on to become a mainstay in Las Vegas until his death in 1987.
"I wanted people to see the other side of Liberace," Weintraub said. "I knew Liberace when I was kid. He entertained me a lot, we had a lot of good times together. He was a fun guy and a brilliant artist. He was Elton John and Lady Gaga before they even dreamed of it. But he had two sides to his life -- the dark side, which he couldn't talk about in those days because coming out of the closet could kill a career, and then he was this bigger-than-life artist onstage. He was living in two polar-opposite worlds. And I wanted to show that dynamic."
Production for the film, which is being directed by Steven Soderbergh ("Traffic," "Ocean's Eleven") begins next summer. Weintraub, who has produced movies such as "Diner" and Soderbergh’s “Ocean’s” movies. " said the film will likely premiere at the end of 2012.
Photo: Hollywood producer and dealmaker, Jerry Weintraub at his Palm Desert, CA home on March 15, 2010. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times