During a Monday, May 20 press conference at the Palais de Festivals at the Cannes Film Festival, Academy Award winner Michael Douglas held back tears thanking director Steven Soderbergh -- who cast him in the over-the-top role of the late Liberace in Behind The Candelabra after his life-threatening battle with stage-four throat cancer.

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"It was right after my cancer that this beautiful gift was given to me," Douglas, 68, shared with the crowd after taking an emotional pause. "I'm eternally grateful to Steven, Matt [Damon] and [producer] Jerry (Weintraub)."

While the part was officially offered seven years ago, Soderbergh revealed he proposed the idea to Douglas even earlier than that: on the set of Soderbergh's Traffic, in which the star played drug czar Robert Wakefield, way back in 2000.

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"I thought he was messing with me," said Douglas, who had met Liberace himself when he was only 12 years old at his father Kirk Douglas' home in Palm Springs. "He came out of a Rolls Royce convertible, and the light was just bouncing off of all of his jewelry. He was very charming."

Also present at the press conference was costar Damon, who plays Liberace's scorned younger lover Scott Thorson;  Damon gushed that working with Douglas in the role a "career highlight".

Behind The Candelabra is in competition for this year's Palme d'Or.

The film will also premiere on HBO, May 26th.

This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Michael Douglas: Liberace Role "Meant So Much" After Cancer Battle