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CALENDAR
8th February: Side Effects released (US)
15th March: Side Effects released (UK)


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UPCOMING PROJECTS

SIDE EFFECTS
Information | Photos | Official website Released: 8th February (US)


BEHIND THE CANDELABRA
Information | Photos | Official website Released: 2013


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NEW & UPCOMING DVDS
Now available from Amazon.com:
Haywire
Contagion

Now available from Amazon.co.uk:
Contagion

DVDs that include an audio commentary track from Steven:
Clean, Shaven - Criterion Collection
Point Blank
The Graduate (40th Anniversary Collector's Edition)
The Third Man - Criterion Collection
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


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Rockumentaries. Palmes díOr. Sexual hang-ups. Wildlife karma. Kafka. Going AWOL. And now ultra-cool Elmore Leonard-based Out Of Sight. So, Steven Soderbergh, abdicated king of indie, do you want to talk about it?
By Belinda Jones
(Empire, January 1999)

A decade has passes since Steven Soderbergh wrote and directed the scorching Sundance-springboarded, Palme díOr winning, $25 million-grossing sex lies and videotape. Now heís back with his biggest budget movie to date - the irresistibly sly, hip, stylish and loin-stirringly sexy Out Of Sight. The five films Soderbergh directed in between these two instant classics earned critical acclaim but registered virtually nil on the attention-grabbing scale. But then Soderbergh is not a flashy man. Dressed in catburglar black, topped with a baseball hat and Lennon glasses he skulks around the studio lunch buffet with the plebs, while George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez are ushered away to gold-plated trailers.

Steven SoderberghBorn in Georgia but raised in Louisiana, Soderbergh began making films at the age of 13. He traveled to Los Angeles after graduating high school to work as a freelance editor and then returned to Louisiana to continue making short films and writing screenplays. He shot a documentary on rock group Yes and then was asked to direct the bandís full length concert film 9012 Live which received a Grammy nomination in 1986. After two years of writing screenplays on spec, he focused on sex lies and videotape and began shooting in the summer of 1988 in his home town of Baton Rouge with Andie MacDowell, James Spader, Laura San Giacomo and Peter Gallagher. His second movie seemed to shy away from the very audience he had so expertly engaged. Kafka was a black-and-white mystery-suspense film set in post World War I Prague starring Jeremy Irons. Then came King Of The Hill, set in the Great Depression, based on the memoirs of A. E. Hotchner. In 1995 Soderbergh was reunited with Peter Gallagher for The Underneath ó a dark tale of obsession and betrayal in present-day Austin, Texas. While last year saw the ďunder the radarĒ release of Schizopolis (an experimental low budget comedy) and Grayís Anatomy (a Version of Spalding Grayís acclaimed medically-inclined monologue).

Today he awaits Empire in a hangar size room on the Universal lot in LA. The walls are hung with dark drapes and he is sitting in the kind of imposing leather chair you would usually find in a mansion library. Soderbergh may have the look of an intense brainiac but he turns out to be a surprisingly mellow fellow and even confesses to a ďBambiĒ moment filming Out Of Sight...

The success of Out Of Sight in America has prompted much debate about your career as a filmmaker. Have you read any interesting insights?
Itís like Polanski said, if you believe the good stuff then you have to believe the bad stuff, so I donít read it at all - itís lust irrelevant to me. Itís not for me to sit on the outside looking in, I am on the inside. Besides, Iím not one to look back and say, ďI wish Iíd done that differentĒ or see a movie that someone the made and ask, ďWhy didnít I get access to that?Ē I donít regret any of the films I have made. Iíve always gone my own way and it seems to have served me pretty well - Iím still working! (Pauses then adds with wry amusement) I think Iím probably a cult failure and Iím really comfortable there.

How has your style changed since 1988?
I ought to be a little better because Iíve worked pretty steadily since then. I think Iím probably looser and more comfortable - thatís lust going through the process and a lot of trial and error. I think when youíre younger you are more serious. Had I made Out Of Sight four years ago, it would have been a chore to sit through.

How different would sex lies and videotape be if you made it today?
I think it would be a lot funnier. But its weaknesses are actually its strengths. Directing is an ongoing process and itís hard for people to understand that you often go down paths that lead nowhere or take you places that arenít successful - thatís just the nature of the beast. You canít make the leap from Annie Hall to Manhattan. You have to have Interiors in between. Itís a tough time now to make mistakes and fortunately my mistakes have been on a very small scale so nobody is holding them against me - but it is important to make them.

How did you claim Out Of Sight?
Iíd made two films for Universal but they were low-budget, loser films and Casey Silver (Universal bigwig) wanted to find a proper studio project for me. He called and said, ďI think this is the one. Itís a perfect meeting of the two minds. Itís a movie we want to make and put a star in but itís a movie you can make distinctive because it needs to be.Ē At first I said, ďThe scriptís great, the dialogueís witty and sarcastic, I love Clooney in it, itís going to he fantastic
ó and I donít want to do it.Ē I had another project that was close to going forward but Casey said, ďThese things arenít going to line up very often, you should pay attention.Ē Arid he was right. And about it being distinctive... For a while I thought the freeze frames and jump-cutting could go either way but the audiences have locked into them.

Has Elmore Leonard seen Out Of Sight?
He saw it 15 minutes longer without music and liked it. No doubt he was as thrilled as the rest of us that George Clooney wasnít squinting up from beneath a furrowed brow.

How did you get him to stop that?
I donít know. It wasnít a conversation. What I felt was necessary and he clearly understood, was that he simplify, that he strip away and that he be still. Heís happy with the movie and heís very self-critical, as am I. Weíre trying to find something else to do together

He says your direction is very brief...
I use the rehearsal time to get a shorthand on how to communicate with the actors. Thatís why I have rehearsals, they donít really need them. Everyone is so different to direct and I donít have time to learn that on the set when there are people around and the clock is running. As it happens, this whole cast was a pleasure to watch work.

Not least Jennifer Lopez...
Sheís really unique. She can do anything - comedy, drama, music. Usually people become stars because they do one thing that people like, Sheís done all kinds of different stuff but she is still moving towards being a big movie star.

The sexy cocktail lounge/hotel room seduction sequence really shows off the Lopez/Clooney chemistry.
I knew that was either going to he one of she best things in the movie or a complete disaster, losing and confusing the audience. Luckily they seem to go with it. I wanted to prolong and enhance that window between knowing you are going to get together with somebody and the actual getting together. Itís a great period because everything is possible reality hasnít set in yet and itís electric. I wanted to stretch it as far as I could. That sequence in Donít Look Now where Nic Roeg cross-cuts the lovemaking scene with Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland getting dressed, there was an intimacy about it that I thought was really powerful. So I stole it. (Grins)

How was it having Danny DeVito as one of the producers?
He could not have been more deferential. He would give his opinion. understanding that I was directing the movie and I had to do what I thought was best. When you are directing itís like being in the middle of a hurricane and you are trying to keep focused so itís good to have people watching your back so you donít step off a cliff.

Were there any precarious moments?
I did hit a low point when we were shooting in Detroit. Luckily for us, six inches of snow had come down that day - it was perfect for the movie but a nightmare to light and things were
going very slow. We broke for lunch but I didnít go back with the rest of the crew, I was just so frustrated I sat on the side of this deserted road by myself. Then a deer came up out of the wood and stood within five feet of me. I reached over to the craft services table and took four apples. The deer came and stood by me and, one by one, ate these apples. There was no one around, completely quiet, just snow falling and it completely lifted the cloud that I was operating under. (He sighs) I went back to work saying, ďOkay, itís just a movie. Weíll put it together a piece at a time.Ē

Did ďgoing mainstreamĒ jar at all?
Believe me, some people making independent films have a lot less freedom than I had on this movie. People who finance independent films are often more scared than the studios because $6 million could sink their company and as a result they are right up the filmmakerís ass the whole time.

How do you think the independent film industry is faring these days?
Itís harder to get distributed than it was when I came up because there are so many now. But itís easier to get them made so itís a trade-off. A new breed of independents will come up anyway, thatís nature. Independent filmmakers are Darwinian ó they will find a way to survive, to get what they want. sex lies and videotape had such an impact on independent filmmaking . . . If sex lies had come out and grossed $1 million it wouldnít have had such an impact, it was strictly a financial issue. The movie itself had nothing to do with it. When people see a $1.2 million movie grossing $25 million, from a business standpoint that becomes interesting. Filmmaking has always been about making money.

What recent movies have you seen that have rocked your world?
Well, I certainly remember coming out of Boogie Nights feeling like I had seen something, like Iíd seen a movie ó and you donít feel that all the time. I also felt like that about In The Company Of Men. I was like, ďWow, I just went some place!Ē Both of those movies were very successful in creating a very specific world that I thought was very compelling.

What did you think of Get Shorty?
Hilarious. I loved it. I saw it a couple of times. In fact, I have it on LaserDisc. I thought it was the kind of Hollywood movie that used to be made 25 years ago - youíd see a lot of films that were that good and had that level of craft - but now it really stands out.

Are you still an avid moviegoer?
One of the sad things about getting older is that I realise I donít have the same kind of enthusiasm I used to have when I first started going to the movies. I remember when Brazil first came out I saw it six times in 12 days. Jaws Iíve seen 28 times and that was before video óI would go on a Sunday and sit through all five shows, back to back. Apocalypse Now, 17 times. American Graffiti, 14 times. Part of me canít do that anymore because back then I was an aspiring director and now I am a director and my focus is different. Also, I just donít have the time. I really miss that enthusiasm. On the couple of occasions when I can recapture it, I try ó I saw Jackie Brown two times in three days. I just wanted to sit in that cinema and have a good time again.

 


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