8th February: Side Effects released (US)
15th March: Side Effects released (UK)
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LET THEM ALL TALK
Photos | Official website
Photos | Official website
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?
Steven Soderbergh is so money
By Stephen Rebello
(Movieline, January 2002)
In the span
of three years, Steven Soderbergh directed the stylish critics’ darlings Out of Sight and The Limey, followed by the Oscar darlings Erin Brockovich
and Traffic. Now, Mr. sex, lies and videotape rolls the dice with Ocean’s
11, a big, fat Vegas heist flick starring such scene-stealers as George
Clooney, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. Will he crap out? Hit
the jackpot is more like it.
Years ago, after nearly a decade of confounding movie pundits by
following the precocious phenomenon sex, lies and videotape -
which wowed critics and audiences alike and won the Palme d'Or at the
1989 Cannes Film Festival—with such off-center and commercially
disappointing fare as Kafka, King of the Hill, Underneath, Gray's
Anatomy and Schizopolis, Steven Soderbergh came roaring back
with Out of Sight, a funky~cool crime yarn fueled by palpable
sexual chemistry between George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez, and The
Limey, a stylish LA-set revenge thriller that reinvented 60's screen
icon Terence Stamp.
Last year, Soderbergh cemented his position in the pantheon of
contemporary flimmaking talent with another double-barreled success:
Erin Brockovich and Traffic. Erin Brockovich could have been an
exceptionally well-written movie of the week, but instead it prickled
with edgy energy and powerhouse performances by Julia Roberts and Albert
Finney. Traffic could have been a polemic, but Soderbergh turned a
strong script and an unconventional ensemble cast into an enormously
human film that raised intriguing questions about America's failed drug
war. Each film earned more than $100 million at the box office, and
pulled down five Oscar nominations apiece. Soderbergh, nominated for
both films, won Best Director for Traffic, and his Brockovich star
Roberts took home Best Actress. Suddenly, all over town , it was welcome
Where do you turn when Hollywood gives you carte blanche? Refusing to be
pigeonholed, the director opted for Ocean's 11 , a big-budget but highly Soderberghian take on the 1960 Las Vegas casino caper which, in place of
Rat Pack hipsters Frank, Dean and Sammy, features such contemporary
icons of postmodern cool as George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and
Julia Roberts. The cast alone raises expectation to an almost impossible
level, and who isn't curious to see whether Soderbergh can pull off a
large-scale escapist entertainment flick without sacrificing his trippy,
outsider, humanistic sensibility? But before anyone can yell sell-out,
he’s already shooting a low-budget film titled. appropriately enough
considering his refusal to be typecast, The Art of Negotiating a Turn,
and come spring, he plans to remake Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972
science-fiction masterpiece Solaris. Meanwhile, there’s the production
entity Section Eight that he runs with George Clooney, and he’s also
joined one-of-a--kind directors Spike Jonze and David Fincher to create
a new production partnership.
STEPHEN REBELLO: When we last talked, when Traffic was about
to open, you told me that for Ocean's 11 you were thinking of
casting Luke and Owen Wilson in the roles that eventually went to Casey
Affleck and Scott Caan. The press speculated about such others as Bruce
Willis, Ralph Fiennes, Johnny Depp, Ewan McGregor and Cameron Diaz.
STEVEN SODERBERGH: There were a lot of people in the mix. I don’t think
Cameron's name came up because I wanted Julia from the get-go. We talked
for a while to Bruce Willis. Just as on Traffic, you get who you’re
supposed to get. We talked to Ralph Fiennes to play the heavy, but now I
look at the movie and go. “I love Andy Garcia in this. He’s not
afraid to play the role." And, yes, we talked to the Wilson brothers,
but Scott Caan and Casey Affleck kill me. I mean, those two guys were a
Q: This cast looks so light and easy together that you want to hang
out with them.
A: The truth is that they’re having a good time, and they're all people
who are truly cool to hang out with. But before we started, I said to
everyone. “Show up ready to work. If you think you’re going to just walk
through this, you're mistaken. If anybody gets smug, we’re dead.”
Q: Clooney and Pitt have great chemistry together.
A: I had this feeling about George and Brad because they have very
similar attitudes about themselves and about work. They're
unpretentious, they’re self-deprecating, they treat people well and
never want to appear as the cliché of the self-obsessed "actor.” They
both like to laugh. They first met when we were doing the final sound
mix for Erin Brockovich. We talked about what we were thinking
and Brad said, “Sounds like fun. Count me in.” Later, I went to his
house and he said., “I don’t want to rewrite or anything, but I'm trying
to figure out the dynamic between my character and (George's) and I want
to float this one idea -- that Danny Ocean is the guy with the big plan
in his head, the vision, but he’s terrible with details. I 'm the guy
who remembers everything" He talked about wanting to overlap
dialogue with George, to know what his character's going to say before
he’s finished saying it. I said. "Perfect. We can play off that dynamic
constantly.’ His ideas were good and smart. He also came up with the
idea that he should be eating all the time, and Brad is like that. He's
one of those people who can eat constantly and just look the same.
Q: Jeez, another reason to resent him bitterly. How do you size up
Pitt after having worked with him?
A: Like anybody who’s worked with him, I've become a huge fan. At some
point. it’s got to be a burden being the coolest guy on the planet. I
mean, we’re all looking to him for guidance. But he wears it so well. I
have enormous affection and respect for him. He's a really good actor.
When you look like that, it’s hard to get people to pay attention to
what you’re actually doing. He’s fearless. I don’t know anyone else in
his position who’s taken the chances he has.
Q: There’s a funny scene in which the plot requires him to disguise
himself as a doctor.
A: That happened right on the set when I said. “I don’t know any doctor
on call at a casino that looks like you. We’ve got to do something.” Our
key hair person said “I’ve got the wig Mike Myers uses when he rehearses
Austin Powers.” There are a lot of people who would not put that
thing on, but Brad couldn’t get enough of it. He put on the wig and
glasses and just disappeared. He kept walking around the casino with
Q: You've worked with George Clooney before, and have now formed a
company with him. What's the connection between you guys?
A: I like what he does and he trusts me, I think. George and I are so
alike. We have no patience for drama. We have no interest in people who
are not sincere and don’t care about what they’re doing. That makes it
easy to work together.
Q: Is there anything that annoys you about your great-looking,
talented, well-liked friend and colleague?
A: [Laughing] When somebody said, "Why are you going into a production
partnership with George?" I said, “ He's agreed to give me 25 percent of
his hairline over the next 18 months.” George actually has a descending
hairline. He has to shave it back to keep it from growing into his eyes.
Unfair? Tell me about it.
Q: You said that Brad Pitt’s looks make him easy to underestimate.
The same could be said about other members of your cast. Julia Roberts
plays the Clooney character’s ex-wife with an unexpected edge, a weary
A: Julia and I really talked about that aspect. I wanted to try
something risky with her in the context of the movie, something that
might turn audience’s off. I also warned her scenes with Danny Ocean to
feel like a Howard Hawks movie -- two grown-ups talking. I told her,
“You haven't gotten over what happened between you and Danny Ocean and
you’ve dealt with it by emotionally cauterizing yourself. Until the very
end of the movie, I want you to be justifiably angry and hurt.’ She
said, “I think I’m coming across as too hard” but I said, "There's
a line to be crossed. We know where we’re going with your character.”
She found a place where she’s firing off those lines but she’s not being
a bitch about it. It'll be interesting to see whether audiences sit with
Q: It’s by design a cool guy’s movie. What was that like for her?
A: She was in heaven.
Q: Did any romantic sparks flare up?
A: No. In retrospect that was obviously a difficult time for her, so in
that regard, she was very much keeping to herself. She's literally the
only girl in the whole movie, surrounded by all these guys. When I sent
her the script, she said, ‘Are you kidding? This is going to be a blast"
The hang quotient is pretty high with her, and the guys being who they
were, she fit right in. She'd worked with Brad [on The Mexican]
and also with Matt when he was, like, two [on Mystic Pizza]. In
fact, a lot of the shooting was me working over here, and 15 feet away,
there would be this circle around Carl Reiner, the ringleader, with
Julia, George and the rest of them, where I’d have to go, “All right,
let’s knock it off. Can we get back to work?”
Q: One of the things I liked best about it was that it’s not your
father's Ocean's 11, but it’s a throwback movie in the best way,
like one of those great men-in-groups movies directed by Howard Hawks.
The last 10 minutes of the movie, much of it scored to Debussy’s “Clair
de Lune,” wowed me.
A: I 'm really interested In seeing how this movie will go over. The
whole movie's inherently theatrical, and the last 10 minute’s shift into
a 40's studio-movie mode. Like a George Cukor movie. Julia does a long
walk across the casino floor. I thought she was spectacular -- just
great movie- star acting — and that whole sequence is one of my favorite
things in the movie. It wasn't there at first. I showed the movie to
Warner's eight days after we wrapped. What made it hard to shoot made it
easier to cut — that is, it's very linear and is meant to be’ put
together one way. And we were cutting as we went because we thought
there was going to be a strike. We were watching it and I felt, 'There’s
a beat missing'.
Q: You mean an emotional beat when her character shifts her
allegiance from one man to another?
A: Right. I knew it wasn't a dialogue thing, it was a matter of watching
her downshift and realize that the man she wants is still nearby, and
she has to find him. So, we’d finished shooting and I told Julia. “I
just need this one shot. She showed up to find us waiting with 250 feet
of dolly track. She looked at it and asked, "What am I supposed to do?”
I explained, she said "I get it.” We did seven or eight takes, including
one where the dolly grip fell and Julia stepped right over him without
missing a beat. When we finished, she said, "That was so much fun,"
because it was pure cinematic acting. It’s rare to see a character think
very much anymore in movies.
Q: With the ongoing aftershock of the events of September 11th, do
you have any trepidation about the movie, in which there are explosions
and blackouts of an entire city, and with a teaser poster campaign that
featured a huge red number 11 that freaked out some people?
A: I'd absolutely make the movie again today. I didn’t know what to say
when that whole thing about the poster came up. We decided to do
nothing. I mean, the movie has an 11 inherently in it's title. It
doesn't have that association to me, though I guess it does to some
people. I don’t know how far to extend this idea of erasing anything
which has any association with that event. As for the movie opening on
the anniversary of Pearl Harbor? Just another horrible coincidence.
Q: What about the movie you’re shooting now? Which is said to be
linked somehow with sex, lies and videotape and stars Julia Roberts,
David Duchovny and Catherine Keener?
A: In the middle of making Ocean's, I thought how I really wanted
to make a small movie. All the actors seem very intrigued by the idea of
driving themselves to the set and showing up ready to be on camera.
They're going through their closets and picking out their wardrobe. To
me, it’s a slapdash combination of Richard Lester and Max Ophuls,
Rules of the Game and a Godard movie. The plan is to strip away the
machinery in the making and the selling, so it's an 1 8-day shoot, a $2
million movie. We deliver the print February and release it on March
Q: What’s with the independent production entity you’re putting
together with directors Spike Jonze, David Fincher and Alexander Payne?
A: We'll all talk about it and lay it out, but it’s just too early. It's
been such fun getting Section Eight up and running. For instance, Todd
Haynes's movie with Julianne Moore [ the upcoming Far From Heaven]
is a fake Douglas Sirk movie, but brilliant -- one of t he best scripts
I've ever read. With Section Eight, we're sort of calling people we like
and using whatever momentum we might have to try and get some
interesting stuff going.
Q With everyone telling you how good you are these days, with an
Oscar and many other film awards at your house, how good do you think
A: It has to do with knowing your capabilities and not shying away from
or being embarrassed by the things you do well. There are certain things
I think I don’t do well. I 'm not an artist in the sense that Kieslowski
or Bergman was. I'm not an artist like Tarkovsky, ironically whose film
Solaris I'm going to ruin. Solaris is going to be as close a run at a
serious film as I will I have ever made. I'm realizing that what I seem
to have a knack for is being a craftsman who's able to make artful
entertainment. Doing commercial pieces or genre material in such a way
that it doesn't insult or alienate the audience.
Q: But there’s a built-in trap there.
A: I've seen it. I have to be careful not to become complacent. That’s
why the subject matters and the styles keep changing. I still feel like’
I’m learning. I still feel that I have better work in front of me.
Read outtakes from this interview here.