Get ready to see a lot more of Matt Damon. The actor tells Playboy he filmed nude scenes for Behind the Candelabra, the upcoming HBO biopic, in which he portrays Scott Thorson, the paramour of late entertainer Liberace, played by Michael Douglas.
"Normally I'd say no to nudity, but I just did a lot of it playing the long-term partner of Liberace," the 42-year-old father of four reveals, when asked by Stephen Rebello how raising a family has affected his film choices. "I mean, it's tastefully done."
Damon says neither he nor Douglas had any reservations about tackling such complex gay characters. "We both have a lot of gay friends, and we were not going to screw this up or bullshit it," It wasn't the most natural thing in the world to do, though. Like, for one scene, I had to come out of a pool, go over to Michael, straddle him on a chaise longue and start kissing him. And throughout the script, it's not like I kiss him just once. We drew it up like a football plan." Damon, ever the gentleman, says Douglas was a "wonderful kisser," but refrains from making any pitcher-catcher cracks.
The actor, who memorably portrayed the sexually ambiguous title character in The Talented Mr. Ripley, laments on a couple of roles he turned down in a pair of widely-acclaimed gay-themed films. "Milk was another hard one because I was excited it would have been for Gus Van Sant, and I would have had the chance to do scenes with Sean Penn," Damon recalls. "They pushed the schedule and it ran into the slot for Green Zone. Steven Soderbergh's mantra is 'The movie gets the right person; the right actor gets the part,' but I was like, 'Shit, no. That was my part.' But when I saw Milk, Josh Brolin was so fucking good that I knew Soderbergh was right. Way back, Gus and I talked about my doing Brokeback Mountain with Joaquin Phoenix, but I had just done The Talented Mr. Ripley and All the Pretty Horses, so I said, 'Gus, let's do it in a couple of years. I just did a gay movie and a cowboy movie. I can't do a gay cowboy movie now.' The right actor got the part. Heath Ledger was magnificent."
Damon also addresses the gay rumors that sprung from his close friendship with Ben Affleck, after the duo won Academy Awards for writing the Good Will Hunting screenplay and the media portrayed the two as inseparable. "I never denied those rumors because I was offended and didn't want to offend my friends who were gay--as if being gay were some kind of fucking disease," Damon says now. "It put me in a weird position in that sense. The whole thing was just gross. But look, there have been great signs of progress--the fact that Anderson Cooper and Ellen DeGeneres can come out so beautifully and powerfully, and it's a big fucking deal that it turns out nobody gives a shit. If Liberace were alive today, everybody would love his music and nobody would care what he did in his private life. Like with Elton John."