CNN: Jerry Weintraub: Liberace paved the way for Elton John, Lady Gaga, Madonna

A biopic of piano legend Liberace was not an easy sell.

“I bought the book. We had Richard LaGravenese adapt the book and make a screenplay out of it. It’s an extraordinary screenplay. And that’s what attracted Steven Soderbergh, and that’s what attracted Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Marvin Hamlisch, Rob Lowe, Dan Aykroyd, Debbie Reynolds,” said Weintraub.

Producer Jerry Weintraub had been talking about doing the movie for years with director Steven Soderbergh. When Weintraub originally brought the idea to studios, they turned it down.

“The subject matter was a little risqué for them. They were afraid of it. And nobody under 50 had heard of Liberace until we started this campaign,” said Weintraub.

The campaign paid off.

Behind the Candelabra” premiered at Cannes earlier this week, ahead of its U.S. release this Sunday on HBO. The film stars Michael Douglas as Liberace, and Matt Damon as Liberace’s driver, confidant, and secret lover READ MORE, WATCH PREVIEW:

BEHIND THE CNN douglas-damon npr

The legendary Hollywood producer knew Liberace – whose fame continued through the ’60s, 70s, and even the early ’80s – personally, beginning his career as a concert promoter. Weintraub worked with legends like Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and Neil Diamond. Liberace measured up to those performers, in his own way.

“He was a very flamboyant entertainer. He was Mr. Show Business, Mr. Showman. He was a showman. But he was a great pianist. And a lot of people never realized what a fantastic pianist Liberace was. But he was really a brilliant pianist,” said Weintraub.

So brilliant that it took some work to mimic his talent on film.

Behind the Candelabra” airs Sunday, May 26 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

Producer Jerry Weintraub:

Producer Jerry Weintraub

Source: CNN