Oscar winner Michael Douglas has a lot to celebrate this week — rave reviews for his performance as Liberace in HBO's movie "Behind the Candelabra," and his healthier wife, fellow Oscar winner Catherine Zeta-Jones, who just today emerged from treatment for bipolar II disorder. The actor said he's particularly grateful for his career comeback "Candelabra" marks after the stage 4 throat cancer battle that nearly ended his life in 2010.
"It was right after my cancer," Douglas said, pausing as he got choked up, in a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday. "And this beautiful gift was handed to me, and I'm eternally grateful for … everyone for waiting for me."
Douglas is referring to "Candelabra" director Steven Soderbergh and co-star Matt Damon — portraying Liberace's lover Scott Thorson — who put the "Candelabra" project on hold to give Douglas time to fully recuperate from physically devastating cancer treatment. Soderbergh and Damon's consideration is particularly touching, because it took years — and rejections from every major Hollywood studio — to find a home for the movie project that's based on Thorson's newly re-released 1988 memoir of the same name.
A-listers and Oscar winners Soderbergh and Damon also kept their work schedules flexible so they could jump into the movie's production when Douglas felt well enough to take on the role of the flamboyant piano-playing superstar. Damon, who's in the eight-figure-per-movie club and whose film dance card is booked well in advance, made these accommodations to play a supporting character, in a role that was risky by leading man standards. That Douglas was the first person Soderbergh approached about the Liberace movie, all the way back in 2000 when they were working together on "Traffic," is evidence of how much respect Damon and Soderbergh had for Douglas.
Getting the project going, with the current crew on board and everyone's schedules synced up, took until 2010, then another Damon/Soderbergh collaboration ("Contagion"), as well as Douglas' 2010 cancer diagnosis, treatment, and recovery, and still another Damon project ("Elysium") pushed "Behind the Candelabra" to 2012. The movie premieres on HBO on May 26.
Douglas confirmed in January 2011 that he had beaten the cancer. Earlier this month, he looked philosophically at recent trials in his life, including his cancer, his wife's mental health issues, and the prison sentence handed down to his oldest son, Cameron, who will be in prison until 2018 for various drug possession and distribution crimes.
"That's life," Douglas told New York Magazine. "Things had been going good for me for a long time. I was ready for some karmic retribution."
Now, with Douglas's own health and career in fine shape, the 68-year-old is also celebrating his wife's release from the hospital. The "Chicago" star, who underwent treatment in 2011 after publicly revealing her condition, re-entered treatment in April.
"She's doing a really good job of getting balanced," Douglas told People. "I'm proud of her."
"Behind the Candelabra" premieres Sunday, 5/26 at 9 PM on HBO.