Projects / Behind The Candelabra

Behind The Candelabra

HBO Films

It’s impossible to tell the story of Liberace without showing his signature showmanship on the piano. But when you have an actor delivering a killer performance without Liberace’s adept fingerings filming in 4K (four times the definition of HDTV), that sounds like a challenge for our taking.

Playing The Keys

In this case, we took an acclaimed pianist and filmed him performing Liberace classics with some of the entertainer’s panache. Then we sat the inimitable Michael Douglas at the same piano, placed a screen in front of him with the filmed pianist and have him mimic the movements with his incredible acting skills. Composite that together, add some beauty work to allow for aging over the span of the ten years, and Michael Douglas is Liberace.

Beheading and Reheading Michael Douglas

In 1986 Liberace made a famed appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson that was an important piece of Behind The Candelabra. In order to create a seamless experience for the viewer and allow them to stay within the story, we needed to place Michael Douglas as Liberace in those scenes and take the real Liberace out. The best way to do this? Behead him of course.

Taking the original film masters of The Tonight Show, we removed just Liberace’s head to preserve the integrity of the surrounding set and individuals. Then filming Michael Douglas against green screen, we placed his head (as Liberace) on top of the pianist’s and transformed a 21st century actor into a 1980s entertainer.

There are a number of VFX shots in this film, from said piano playing to the detailed beauty work we did to allow the actors to span ten years and show Liberace’s deterioration with AIDS. We were thrilled to be a part of the masterful crafting of Liberace’s legacy and encourage you to watch the film!