8th February: Side Effects released (US)
15th March: Side Effects released (UK)
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Released: 8th February (US)
BEHIND THE CANDELABRA
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NEW & UPCOMING DVDS
Now available from Amazon.com:
Now available from Amazon.co.uk:
DVDs that include an audio commentary track from Steven:
Clean, Shaven - Criterion Collection
The Graduate (40th Anniversary Collector's Edition)
The Third Man - Criterion Collection
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
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.
Born 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
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
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
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.