Latest news & site updates Information Articles & interviews Photo gallery Video clips Interact Site info & links

 

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


THE FANLISTING
There are 436 fans listed in the Steven Soderbergh fanlisting. If you're a Soderbergh fan, add your name to the list!


UPCOMING PROJECTS

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


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


ADVERTS


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?


ADVERTS

     

THE BREAKOUT STAR OF THE YEAR TALKS TO THE DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR
Steven Soderbergh interviews Erika Christensen
(Interview, April 2000)

Erika Christensen's angry, confused, drug-addicted teen in Steven Soderbergh's Traffic was one of the most compelling film portraits in recent memory. The 18-year-old actress was the standout in an ensemble full of heavy hitters: it was the debut performance of the year.

Performances like Christensen's are not born. They are coaxed, encouraged, and shaped by a director, or perhaps more correctly, by a director-actor relationship. Of course, Traffic's director was Steven Soderbergh, the Oscar double-nominee (for Traffic and Erin Brockovich) currently helming a much-anticipated remake of Ocean's Eleven starring George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Brockovich heroine Julia Roberts. Here Soderbergh talks with Christensen, a rich conversation in which the relationship the two built on the set of Traffic is revealed. The result is a virtual "How To" for aspiring actors arid directors, and a glimpse into the minds of Hollywood's hottest director and its brightest new actress, whom we're sure to see lots more of in the future.

[The telephone rings.)

STEVEN SODERBERGH: Hello?

ERIKA CHRISTENSEN: Hey. How's it going?

SS: Oh, good, thanks. You?

EC: Good. Thanks for interviewing me. I know you're really busy.

SS: Couple of things going on.

EC: Yeah? [Laughs] Just a couple. Like getting ready to clean up at the Oscars and starting on your new film, Ocean's Eleven.

SS: So where are you? Are you in L.A.?

EC: Yeah. You are too, right? How's it going?

SS: Pretty good. We start [Ocean's Eleven] in 10 days.

EC: Are you starting in Vegas?

SS: No, we start on the east coast, then we go to Vegas, and then we come back here for soundstage stuff. So what are you doing?

EC: I am looking for a job that I won't be ashamed of after being in Traffic.

SS: Oh, well, you should give up on that! [both laugh]

EC: I should! It's really hard!

SS: It's hard because you want to find something good to be in, and you don't want to suddenly have people try and stick you in some cheesy teen movie.

EC: Oh, no! I'd never be able to show my face to you again!

SS: Sure you would--everybody's got to eat. But you know, it's nice if you have something that keeps you on the path that you started.

EC: Yeah. I want a track record. I want a good career built from the bottom up.

SS: Well, borrow some money from your parents and wait it out.

EC: [laughs] That's what I'm doing, basically. Living at home and turning down teen movies.

SS: Have you thought about going to school?

EC: I have, but I think I would rather do that later because if I did, it would be to learn how to direct, and I'm not ready to do that right now.

SS: I can teach you how to do that in an hour!

EC: An hour versus four years? I'll take the hour.

SS: I can get you on your feet in 60 minutes, guaranteed. The rudimentary aspects of how to put a scene together can really be taught to anyone with a brain in about an hour, and the rest of it is a question of whether or not you are an artist in that particular venue. There's no question you're an artist as an actor, but the question of whether or not you would be as good a director as you are an actor--well, you won't know until you try it.

Plus, if you have a DVD player, that's the best film school in the world. I wish I'd had DVDs when I was coming up; those commentaries by terrific filmmakers telling you how they did everything--you can't put a price on that. Or rather, you can--it's $29.95. [laughs] But seriously, that's absolutely invaluable.

EC: I've just started watching the classics. There are so many great films that I know are great films that I haven't seen yet.

SS: Then you should be taking advantage of your off time now, because when I was slightly younger than you, like 13 to 17, all I ever did when I wasn't at school was watch stuff and read stuff. When you're young, things imprint in a way that they don't when you're older. And looking back, my only regret was that I didn't stay up later and read one more thing or watch one more thing, because at that age, it's all potential and things just hit you.

EC: That's good advice. I've got some free time.

SS: Well, make great use of it because there's so much stuff that you would really like, that's great art, that you would get a lot out of. Not just technically, but emotionally. There have been a lot of really terrific pieces of art made by filmmakers over the past century. You should see all of them.

EC: OK. Even the bad ones?

SS: Sometimes that's really important, seeing a bad one, so you know what not to do. It can be a little scary because you realize how easy it is to make something bad.

EC: I was just reading a script and went, "Mmm, that was terrible!" But I couldn't put my finger on why it was terrible, and that was scary.

SS: Yeah, it can be a very fine line. A lot of it can just be the execution. Take for example a movie like Erin Brockovich: You could take that material in one direction or you could take it another, and that's where as an actor, it helps to be director-driven, I think. If that's the case, then at least you have a sense of things because although you have no control whatsoever over the circumstances, someone you trust does.

EC: Traffic was such an interesting experience for me because it was so simple and when I watched it for the first time, I thought, "Yeah, OK, that's me, that's what I do." And then when people started showering me with compliments, I took another look and went, "What are they seeing?"

SS: It's normal to feel that way because probably, like me, you're process-driven and not result-driven. I just like the work and when the movie's done, I'll watch what happens with a bemused eye, because it's the part of the business you can't control. It's impossible to sort out what you're supposed to do with people's reactions. That's why I work all the time. It's clean.

EC: Traffic was such a relaxed environment. I trusted you. When you said, "We're moving on," I went, "OK, fine." It never occurred to me to be unhappy with what I was doing.

There's a lot that hadn't occurred to me until after the shoot was over. The question I get so often is, "Weren't you intimidated by all those big names? All those people?" I say, "Well, I should've been, but I wasn't."

SS: I often talk about there being a chain of command but not a chain of respect. I think that's really important when you're trying to create an atmosphere in which people feel comfortable and safe.

EC: Absolutely. Since you're so driven by the process, and not necessarily by the outcome, do you ever have a sense of just not knowing whether or not a film is going to turn out good or bad?

SS: Oh, yeah. I've always followed the same methodology and some of them turn out well and some of them don't. [laughs) It's important to try and figure out why something didn't work, but you can't start second guessing yourself. The bottom line is, I always try to make something that I would want to see. Now, what I want to see changes sometimes from the beginning of the film to the end. But again, as long as you're following your instincts, your mistakes are your own.

EC: Right. Like you said, it's clean.

SS: But then again, this is a business--especially for actors--in which you don't have a lot of control and sometimes you have to make adjustments. Momentum is really important and you're in a spot right now where you have some. You need to think, "Well, what do I want to do with that? If I can parlay it into something that I'm going to be happy about, then great! And if not, I'll trade off some momentum for not doing anything before the [actors'] strike."

EC: Oh, man! That would drive me nuts.

SS: Again, there's no such thing as wasted time.

EC: I want to use this momentum--I've had so much more recognition than I've ever had in my life. I'm thinking, "Maybe I can get some good roles from this."

SS: I think you can--and you will--but you've run into the problem, frankly, that almost every woman in this business has: coming across a great role. It's hard. Most movies are written for men.

EC: Which is why eventually I think I'm going to write, produce and direct. At some point I think I'm going to get so frustrated that I'm gonna to have to start coming up with my own material.

SS: That's a way to exert some amount of control over your destiny. There are a couple of very famous actors out there who've created their own opportunities. I think that's always a good idea.

EC: That's the way it should be--everybody taking responsibility for themselves.

SS: If it turns out that you've got some time on your hands, time to sit down, read a lot, see a lot of things, and try your hand at writing some stuff, that's not wasted time at all. And the good news is, the best news is, you don't have to prove yourself to anyone anymore. You were put into a circumstance that someone who doesn't have talent and poise would have been run over by. You delivered, you stepped up, and you were there. And now you don't have people wondering whether or not you can act.

EC: Wow. God, thank you!

SS: Nobody's wondering whether you can do it or not. What they might be wondering is, "How does she fit into X, Y or Z."

EC: Right. "How can she be incorporated into what we're doing?"

SS: Exactly. Just remember that you have every right to want to do something that isn't a typical teen movie. You can wait for the right project to come along.

EC: Right. I have the time to develop myself.

SS: Yep. I'm telling you--that's really important. I'm assuming that you'd like to continue doing this, so remember, how you develop personally over the next 10 years is what's really important for you and for your career. Again, if it turns out that there's time spent expanding your ideas and your sense of the world, it's just going to make you a better actor.

EC: I want to travel for that very purpose. I love being anywhere that I haven't been.

SS: If you ever become famous--movie star famous--you'll miss that a lot. For an actor, losing the ability to be the man on the bus is really difficult.

EC: There's another reason to travel!

SS: I feel so old! It was 20 years ago I was out here trying to get my act together ... and I ended up going back home. But, you know what? The things that I believed in back then have stood me in good stead. My ideas about how you should work and what kind of stuff you should make.

EC: That's good to hear because people tell me that I'm going to change. I believe that I will, that I'll grow, that I'll learn--but I don't want to feel like what I am now is somehow not valid.

SS: I don't think that'll happen. I still believe the same stuff I believed--about what you should make, how you should make it, the kind of people you should work with, and the way you should conduct yourself--that I did since I was 14. It was because at a very young age I was exposed to some people who had very humane and progressive ideas about art and the making of art. And again, it came at that time I was speaking of earlier where you're very receptive to that stuff.

EC: I think I'm lucky in that way, too. Because I'm still young and because I'm doing it, and all of a sudden I'm working with people that I really respect, people I think I can learn from. About every six months I think, "I get the hang of this acting thing." But I'm not satisfied--that's something that's innately a part of me.

SS: I think that's going to be a constant. Every time I start a movie I feel like I'm reinventing the wheel, that I don't know enough, that I'm going to get beat. I never feel like I'm ready, and it just never goes away. In a sense, every film is different and you are starting over, but you rely on the foundation of craft that you've built--you hope that'll be enough and, usually, it is. And if it's not, you hope that you have people around you to help get you through it. It keeps you from being complacent and from getting lazy. Just that little pocket of anxiousness keeps you alert. But I always have it--I have it right now.

EC: You of all people.

SS: I feel like I bit off more than I could chew this time. This [film, Ocean's Eleven] is going to be the one where I get caught.

You know, Erika, it was really good talking to you because we haven't been able to speak for more than 30 seconds at a time in six months.

EC: Yeah, and every time I see you it's like "Wow! Congratulations--again!" Every time I see you you've won something else.

SS: Yeah, well that's coming to a close.

EC: Only with the end of the awards season--until next year.

SS: Well, thank God I have another movie to distract me.

EC: Thanks again for doing this. I appreciate it. And thanks for the advice.

SS: Do with it what you will, but you know, I look back and feel that for the most part I've been lucky and at the same time I've created circumstances in which luck could occur.

EC: Talent plus perseverance?

SS: That's right.

EC: Right. Thanks again. I guess I'll be talking to you sometime soon.

SS: Yes, you will. Bye.

 


Latest news & updates  -  Information  -  Articles & interviews  -  Photo gallery  -  Video clips  -  Interact  -  Site info & links

Steven Soderbergh Online is an unofficial fan site and is not in any way affiliated with or endorsed by Mr. Soderbergh or any other person, company or studio connected to Mr. Soderbergh. All copyrighted material is the property of it's respective owners. The use of any of this material is intended for non-profit, entertainment-only purposes. No copyright infringement is intended. Original content and layout is Steven Soderbergh Online 2001 - date and should not be used without permission. Please read the full disclaimer and email me with any questions.