Jerry Weintraub on Cannes and his Liberace Biopic (Q&A)
Jerry Weintraub to Receive Inaugural Legend Award at Hollywood Film Awards (Exclusive)
This story first appeared in the May 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
When the Cannes Film Festival rolls around each May, Jerry Weintraub usually finds himself in the south of France. But he doesn't come to work, he insists: "It's one of my playgrounds. I don't go to be in Cannes. I'm just usually in the south of France that time of year, usually on a yacht. So I'll go in to see friends, go to the du Cap, have lunch with people I know. I'm lucky in that respect."
But this year, Weintraub does have red-carpet duties that will keep him in town a little longer. Steven Soderbergh's Behind the Candelabra, which Weintraub executive produced and which stars Michael Douglas as flamboyant pianist Liberace and Matt Damon as his boyfriend, will have its world premiere at the fest before airing May 26 on HBO.
Weintraub, 75, began his show business career as a personal manager, handling acts from Joey Bishop to singer Jane Morgan, whom he married in 1965. Hitching up with Elvis Presley during the '60s, he turned concert promoter, handling headliners from Frank Sinatra to Neil Diamond to John Denver. Then, in 1975, he segued into film producing with Robert Altman's Nashville.
In a sense, with Candelabra, his career has come full circle: To re-create Liberace's world, the producer, who lives in Beverly Hills with his companion Susan Ekins, returned to Las Vegas, where he enjoyed much of his early success.
The Hollywood Reporter: Were you surprised to get the call inviting the film to Cannes?
Jerry Weintraub: No. In a word, no. I know the festival. I know Thierry [Fremaux, the festival's artistic director] very well. This is a perfect film for Cannes. It's a great film. It's a piece of art -- it's different, it's bold, so why not have it at Cannes? Now, the competition, that was another phone call because I didn't particularly want it in the competition, and Steven didn't want it in the competition, but Thierry wanted it in competition very much. And so Steven called me and said: "It can't hurt us. If we win, great. If we don't win, we don't win. So why don't we let him do it?"
THR: Why didn't you want to be in the competition? Steven Soderbergh won the Palme d'Or for his first film, sex, lies and videotape.
Weintraub: I don't like competitions, particularly in the film business. That's not what it's about. It's an art film. The Palme d'Or in Cannes, and the Academy Award here, the Golden Globe and the Emmy, it's great when you win. But that's not why we do it. Those awards are there for business, they are not there for art. I know the Academy hates it when I talk that way, but that's too bad.
THR: So how did the movie come about? You've been involved with it since 2000.
Weintraub: It was around the time Steven was doing Traffic. He called me and said: "I read a book you ought to pick up. See if you like it. I think there's a movie in it." [It was Scott Thorson's memoir about his life with Liberace.] I did. I said I knew Liberace. Let's go for it. He had Michael Douglas on set, and he showed it to Michael, who said that sounded like a great idea.