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Matt Damon on playing Liberace’s lover

Timothy Kincaid

December 14th, 2012

HBO is producing Behind the Candelabra, the story of famed pianist Liberace, starring Michael Douglas. In the role of Scott Thorson, Liberace’s lover, is Matt Damon. Here is what he had to say to Playboy:

PLAYBOY: Are there any kinds of roles you think twice about doing now that you’re a family man?

DAMON: Well, normally I’d say no to nudity, but I just did a lot of it playing the long-term partner of Liberace, Scott Thorson, in Behind the Candelabra. I mean, it’s tastefully done. Steven Soderbergh directed it, and Michael Douglas plays Liberace. But this movie’s not going to be for everyone.

PLAYBOY: A movie about a closeted, larger-than-life TV and Vegas entertainer and his much younger lover, whose plastic surgery he paid for so they could look more alike? Sounds like must-see family viewing to us.

DAMON: These two men were deeply in love and in a real relationship—a marriage—long before there was gay marriage. That’s not an insignificant thing. The script is beautiful and relatable. Their conversations when they’re dressing or undressing or having a spat or getting ready for bed? That’s every marriage. It feels like you’re witnessing something really intimate you would normally see with a man and a woman, but instead it’s two men, which was thrilling. There’s stuff I think will make people uncomfortable. Great. It’s HBO—they can change the channel.

There’s more.

Comments

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Christopher
December 16th, 2012 | LINK

Yet another of our stories denied to us gay actors due to someone else’s idea of “marketability”.

I’m tired of having my voice usurped by marketable str8-identified actors. No wonder there are gay communities – and I’m tired of being eclipsed by the presumed heterosexual majority reflected in all media.

Regan DuCasse
December 16th, 2012 | LINK

I see your point Christopher, and you’re right. HBO is essentially a television distributor.
And television actor Matt Bomer could have played the part. Alan Cumming might have worked well as Liberace.
It’s very much like the way white singers would hijack black music and the world went wild, while the original black singer’s own recordings would go into obscurity.
It’s getting old that it seems like a big deal, major award worthy performance when a het actor plays a gay man. But if a gay man plays a gay man, then he’s not really ‘acting’, in the public’s or casting director’s estimation.
Right.
Black soul singers can sing that way because that’s ‘their way’.
But a white soul singer is a big deal because they are performing what is considered a difficult style for white people to sing.

Brother, I get it. But apparently the public and their tastes are still taking a great deal away from the minority in question here.
Which is, what contradicts authenticity?

Mark F.
December 17th, 2012 | LINK

I was horrified they didn’t get an actual real murderer to play Hannibal Lector in “Silence Of The Lambs.” Anthony Hopkins just wasn’t “authentic” enough for me.

Robert
December 17th, 2012 | LINK

yeah, we should just let our stories go untold until Hollywood decides to let gay people play all the gay roles. If we insisted on that our stories would never get told.

I’ve only heard of one production that used real gay people for their filming. Back in the 90′s “Life Goes ON” had a long storyline about one character having AIDS, they decided to hire only actors with HIV/AIDS to play the rest of the people in the clinic and hospital. It was well done, but it’s rare. Just as I think it’s okay for gay people to play straight people on the screen, I think it’s okay for straight people to play gay. Recently there was outrage over the idea that Matt Boomer couldn’t convincingly play the 50 Shades of Grey character because he was gay. How is it any different to insist that gay actors would be better in the roles? Actors are actors, their JOB is to play whatever they are given. If we insist only only gay actors in gay roles, we limit every gay actor to ONLY gay roles.

Regan DuCasse
December 17th, 2012 | LINK

Mark F.
Really?
Please explain yourself and the point of your snark.

Regan DuCasse
December 17th, 2012 | LINK

Robert:
Think for a second, instead of being contrary just to attack my comment.
Think.
1. I didn’t say that ONLY gay actors should play gay characters. Part of my point is OPPORTUNITY for gay actors. Such opportunity isn’t as thick on the ground as it is for het actors.
Gay actors ARE limited in more ways than one. Not just in playing gay characters, but all kinds of other characters as well.

2. Accolades. There is something very cynical that accolades go to het actors playing gay because it’s seen as a stretch of their talent. Rather than the other way around when it’s a gay actor that does it.
Or a gay actor plays straight.

3. All of this, is quite symptomatic that there is still much prejudice that is more subtle these days, but it still has a profound affect on the stories and careers of gay people in Hollywood and their stories.
This also happens to women, and people of color too.
I attend many WGA panels with gay and lesbians writers, actors, producers and so on, that are still having a frustrating time being shut out from writing, producing, portraying and creating their own stories without interference from the dominant heterosexual studios or production houses.
I never said it wasn’t okay for a straight actor to play gay, but up until recently THEY were the only people playing those roles at all.
See the difference?
And, I’m working on a writing project of my own that incorporates several cultural and gender variant components in it and sometimes there are some creative things you have to do with those stories for someone to green light them or believe them, however authentic they actually are.
I also attend OutFest every summer. “Gun Hill Road”, a movie that got major accolades for acting and story at Sundance and other major film festivals, never got distribution.
The role about a transgendered teenager, played by a transgendered kid, apparently was TOO real for anyone to think it would be believed at the box office.
Sometimes it IS the cash register that matters more than the stories too.

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