“Behind the Candelabra”
May 24, 2013
Directed by Steven Soderbergh and produced by Jerry Weintraub, HBO Films’ “Behind the Candelabra” is based on an autobiographical novel written by Liberace’s live-in- lover of five years, Scott Thorson. Liberace was at one time the highest-paid entertainer in the world, embracing an extravagant lifestyle both on and off the stage. The film traces Liberace’s and Scott Thorson’s relationship from 1977 through 1982.
For “Behind the Candelabra,” Costume Designer Ellen Mirojnick was faced with the daunting yet exciting challenge of creating Liberace’s elaborate costumes and aesthetic on both a tight budget and a tight schedule. Producer Jerry Weintraub was able to secure access to the archives of the Liberace Foundation, allowing Mirojnick to examine the performer’s extraordinarily embellished stage costumes designed by Michael Travis. With only eight weeks of pre-production to design and manufacture, Mirojnick worked closely with Mary Elllen Fields at Hargate Costumes to create stage costumes using new fabrications and embellishments that would have the right amount of sparkle on screen. As Mirojnick describes, “it was the most fabulous challenge that I have ever been given.”
When we first meet Liberace (Douglas), he is on stage playing the “Boogie Woogie” He is wearing a three piece, ice blue sequined suit, the jacket’s lapel and cuffs adorned with crystals and white rhinestones. Beneath the suit is a white lace, ruffled bib-front tuxedo shirt with multi -layered lace ruffled cuffs . Our eyes are drawn to his fingers and the array of jeweled rings moving up and down the keyboard at a lightning-fast pace. At his neck, a rhinestone bow tie is held in place with a large white rhinestone brooch. As Mirojnick describes, “(in this scene) Liberace dazzles the audience and mesmerizes Scott Thorson, sweeping us into the story….”
Although, “Behind the Candelabra” features an all-star cast of characters including Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula, Rob Lowe, Tom Papa, and Debbie Reynolds, it is impossible not to recognize the costume and production design as stars in and of themselves.
“Behind the Candelabra” premieres on HBO on Sunday, May 26th at 9pm.