There are few people in Hollywood more obviously powerful than Steven Spielberg—certified hitmaker, multiple Oscar winner (and governor’s board member), and possibly the most famous filmmaker on the planet. Which is why it’s such a big deal when Spielberg, as he has several times over the last few years, lets his biases be known, especially on the topic of what “counts” as a movie. And while the Ready Player One director has since walked back rumors that he might use his position at the Academy to stop films like Alfonso Cuaròn’s Roma—which was financed and distributed by streaming service Netflix, with a limited in run in theaters to put it into award consideration—from being nominated for Oscars, that hasn’t stopped people from accusing him of letting his alleged anti-small-screen feelings motivate him to action from time to time.
And by people, we of course mean “Michael Douglas,” who took time out of a recent conversation with Benicio Del Toro to allege that Spielberg once fucked him out of a major award at Cannes. Douglas and Del Toro were interviewing each other for Variety about their recent stints in TV—The Kominsky Method and Escape At Dannemora, respectively—when the topic of their shared pal Steven Soderbergh came up. (Soderbergh has directed both men extensively, including scoring Del Toro an Oscar win for 2000's Traffic.) Douglas got onto to the topic of his hypnotically weird (and excellent) performance as Liberace in Soderbergh’s HBO project Behind The Candelabra, which debuted at Cannes in 2013—the year when one Mr. Steven Spielberg was the festival’s jury head. Here’s Douglas:
It was shown theatrically around the world. So I don’t want to say nothing, but Steven Spielberg was the president of the Cannes Film Festival [jury] that year. And the word was, I was the favorite for the best actor award. He put the kibosh on that, because it was an HBO film. So when I now see this argument and beef about Showtime or Netflix, in this case, doing feature films, I think they’ve got to get this resolved.
Now, all of this kibosh mish-mosh is obviously hearsay; Douglas, after all, is very good in Candelabra, but it’s not like Bruce Dern didn’t do great work in the performance that actually won, from Alexander Payne’s Nebraska. But it’s obvious that Douglas, at least, thinks he got screwed by Spielberg’s anti-TV-movie proclivities; Del Toro is smart enough not to chime in on any specific allegations—man’s gotta eat, right?—but they do both agree that the actual difference between TV and film is getting smaller and smaller every year, no matter what Steven Spielberg might think.