Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh says his upcoming film about Liberace is airing on HBO instead of getting a theatrical release because studios thought it was "too gay."
The upcoming "Behind the Candelabra" has Michael Douglas in a compulsively watchable performance as the celebrated pianist, Matt Damon as his young lover and Soderbergh directing. It comes, in other words, from a trio of A-listers. So why isn't it a theatrical release?
"Nobody would make it. We went to everybody in town," the "Traffic" and "Ocean's 11" director told TheWrap on Friday, at the Television Critics Association winter press tour. "We needed $5 million. Nobody would do it."
Wait a minute, we said. Let us get this straight: No studio would budget $5 million for a movie with Damon and Douglas?
"They said it was too gay. Everybody. This was after 'Brokeback Mountain,' by the way. Which is not as funny as this movie. I was stunned. It made no sense to any of us."
Soderbergh has a theatrical movie coming out in February, "Side Effects," a thriller starring Channing Tatum and Rooney Mara. But the director said he's glad the Liberace film ended up on HBO.
"They're great and they're really good at what they do, and ultimately I think more people will see it, and that's all you care about," Soderbergh said. "Studios were going, 'We don't know how to sell it. They were scared.'"
OK. But seriously: He was able to get a theatrical release for "The Girlfriend Experience," starring porn actress Sasha Grey, but not for one with Damon and Douglas?
"Well, for a million-and-a-half bucks," he said, referring to the "Girlfriend Experience" budget.
But that's not that far from $5 million.
"Yeah, I was surprised," he said.
HBO also announced Friday that it will air another gay-themed project that was once planned for theatrical release. The network said that it will air Ryan Murphy's adaptation of Larry Kramer's play "The Normal Heart," starring Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo, next year.
"Behind the Candelabra" premieres this spring. After that, Soderbergh has vowed to retire. Maybe HBO can persuade him not to.