Nominee Profile: Michael Douglas (Behind the Candelabra)
View Michael Douglas' Bio
He has played a stockbroker, a detective, a president, an adventurer, a lawyer, a judge, a drug czar, a divorcee and very often a man with a penchant for dangerous women. But no role took as much courage as slipping into the sequined clothes of Liberace in Behind The Candelabra:
"When I was younger I couldn’t have played that part. In fact – that film would have never gotten made,“ he said about the love story between the Las Vegas superstar and his much younger boyfriend (played by fellow nominee Matt Damon) at the Cannes Film Festival in May where it premiered to standing ovations.
"I had trepidations about playing this part, sure. It was a great story, a great screenplay, a great co-star and director. You’re scared, you wanna deliver the goods.“ And deliver the goods he did. Aside from the fantastic reactions in Cannes, Behind The Candelabra garnered 13 awards so far.
"I have never played a character with that many appliances, wigs, and clothes. I had payed gay once, in a Will & Grace episode, as a guest star. Plus Liberace was a big guy with a broad chest and I had to figure that out.“
Douglas says he had time. Between the film finding financing and his own serious cancer scare it took a few years to get off the ground, giving him the opportunity to study enough piano to get it right and figure out Liberace’s voice from taped performances and conversations. The face make up was especially difficult: "We saw the heads with the masks for the plastic surgery scenes and that was spooky. We weren’t there for the scenes where they were cutting them up but when we saw it on film it was very eerie because they looked so real.“
The offer to play Liberace came at a crucial point in Douglas’ career: "I hadn’t worked in two or three years, wasn’t sure if I had a career. The part was so great, I had a job again, something to focus on. After my cancer issues and my son is in federal prison and other stuff going on, it was for me the light at the end of the tunnel.“ The final scene of the film was an especially difficult one, seen through different eyes after he got a new lease on life: "Not just for me, it was difficult for my father to watch, seeing his son die on film after what I’d just been through.“ Kirk Douglas knew Liberace, Michael met him once in Palm Springs, where he lived, and describes him as a very entertaining and generous person whose company was enjoyed by all people around him. "He loved everything he did and it came out on stage and on television and when he played his piano. He loved what he was doing. And you just got captivated by that.“ Loving what you do is a sentiment Douglas understands all to well: "I am the luckiest guy in the world. I beat cancer, I got the best part I ever had, God is good! I have a new fresh breeze behind my sails.“
With that said Michael Douglas is by no means a newcomer to the show: he won a Golden Globe for "Wall Street“, got another six nominations and was honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award.