updated 09/11/2009 AT 10:00 AM ET
•originally published 09/15/2009 AT 9:00 AM ET
Michael Douglas is taking a sharp turn from his usual roles to tackle the lead in a film biography of the campy musical performer Liberace, and Matt Damon is playing his longtime lover, director Steven Soderbergh confirmed.
“We’ve already done some costume and wardrobe tests on Michael, and they’re very, very, very good.” Soderbergh told a French newspaper at the Deauville Film Festival. “I swear to you, Michael amazed me. He crushed it.”
Born Wladziu Valentino, the flamboyant, piano-playing Liberace, nicknamed “Mr. Showmanship” and “Glitter Man,” was a staple of early 1950s television, and was an institution in Las Vegas until his death from AIDS in 1987. At his height, he made more money than Elvis and The Beatles.
Damon, Soderbergh said, has agreed to portray Scott Thorsen, the assistant/boyfriend whose 1982 palimony suit for $110 million publically outed the entertainer.
“Matt accepted the challenge,” Soderbergh said. “But I have to say I’d already convinced him to gain 30 pounds for The Informant.”
Liberace will be filmed off a script by writer/director Richard Lagravense, who was responsible for The Bridges of Madison County. Soderbergh said the budget will allow filmmakers to re-stage segments of Liberace’s spectacular stage act, which often involved elaborate stunts such as flying or driving to his piano bench in a Rolls-Royce.