updated 07/31/2012 AT 11:00 AM ET
•originally published 07/31/2012 AT 4:20 PM ET
One of the sunniest entertainers ever to come along, flamboyant pianist Wladziu Valentino Liberace – known simply as Liberace – may have had a dark side, but he kept it carefully concealed from his public.
That is bound to change next year when HBO airs the movie Behind the Candelabra, now filming with a cast-against-type Michael Douglas as the gilded showman and Matt Damon as his much-younger lover, Scott Thorson – who exposed his life with Lee in a tell-all book and also sued for $113 million in palimony.
“He thought his personal life was nobody’s business,” the real-life Thorson told PEOPLE in 1987, when Liberace, 67, died from AIDS.
Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh (Traffic, Ocean’s 11 and Magic Mike), directs the HBO production, whose title comes from the elaborate décor with which Liberace surrounded himself, including his trademark candelabra on the piano. Also in the cast: Rob Lowe, Debbie Reynolds, Dan Aykroyd, Scott Bakula and Cheyenne Jackson.
In the scene shown here and taken on the set Monday, Douglas and Damon, both in character, are shopping for a car.
Lee had a quite few of those. As described by PEOPLE in 1982: “He has realized the dreams of a most common man. His Las Vegas act, concert tours and records (60 million sold to date) have brought him an average gross income of $5 million for each of the last 30 years, and he has worked his bejeweled tails off to make it so. In his portfolio are many mansions (three in Las Vegas alone), pianos (18 at latest count, including Chopin’s and Gershwin’s), cars (20, two of them Rollses), gems (he wears about $3 million worth onstage and has one $35,000 Tiffany watch that plays his theme song, “I’ll Be Seeing You”), furs (including a $150,000 black diamond mink coat lined with Austrian rhinestones), antiques (don’t ask) and real estate. … All this from leaving the classical piano repertoire for what he has called ‘the happiness side of music.’ “