Nellie Andreeva

UPDATED: Steven Soderbergh’s long-gestating Liberace feature is headed to HBO. HBO Films has greenlighted for production Behind The Candelabra, which will be directed by Soderbergh. It takes a behind-the-scenes look at the tempestuous relationship between legendary entertainer Liberace, played by Michel Douglas, and Scott Thorson, his younger limo driver and live-in lover, played by Matt Damon. The actors had been attached to the project when it was a feature, which also had Richard LaGravenese writing and Jerry Weintraub producing. Weintraub will now executive produce, with Gregory Jacobs and Susan Ekins producing. Soderbergh will direct from a script by LaGravenese. “This is a story that’s going to surprise a lot of people,” said HBO Films president Len Amato. “It’s funny, heartbreaking and always fascinating, and we are delighted that Jerry and Steven brought the film to HBO.”

Weintraub and Soderbergh began working on the project 3-4 years ago. They acquired Thorson’s memoir Behind The Candelabra (My Life With Liberace) and hired LaGravenese to write a script. Douglas and Damon then came on board to star but the project, set at Warner Bros., was dealt a setback when Douglas had to take time off for cancer treatment. Meanwhile, Weintraub spent time working with HBO on the documentary about his career His Way and got the idea of setting the film there. “It is a great place, and they could bring us the largest audience,” Weintraub said. Added 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.” Liberace, known as much for his career as a top entertainer as he is for his flamboyant lifestyle, died in 1987 from AIDS-related complications. In 1982, Thorson filed a $113-million palimony lawsuit against his employer. Most of suit was dismissed, and Thorson eventually received a small settlement, reported to be in the $95,000 range. The project reunites principals who have worked together before: Weintraub produced the Ocean’s Eleven movie franchise, which was directed by Soderbergh and co-starred Damon. Damon also starred in Soderbergh’s latest feature, Contagion and the 2009 The Informant! Meanwhile, Douglas toplined Soderbergh’s feature Traffic, which earned the director an Oscar. Behind The Candelabra will start production in summer 2012, with locations in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Palm Springs. HBO has had success with films originally developed as features and have come to the pay cable channel with A-list talent already attached, including Grey Gardens starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange.Liberace

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