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?
Sketching, For a Change, on Screen
(The New York Times, July 28, 2002)
Steven Soderbergh shot to
prominence in 1989, when a small, intimate film he had written and
directed, Sex, Lies and Videotape, became a runaway hit. Its
success helped to establish the box-office viability of independent films
and also to propel a fledgling New York-based film distributor, Miramax,
into the major leagues.
Today, Mr. Soderbergh is an Oscar-winning Hollywood director with hits
like Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Ocean's Eleven to his credit. And
Harvey Weinstein, the co-chairman of Miramax, is an industry powerhouse.
But their current project, Full Frontal, which brings them together
for the first time since Sex, Lies, is something of a throwback to
that earlier film: small, cheap, quickly shot. Mr. Soderbergh calls it an
"unauthorized sequel," although none of the original film's characters are
in it, and it is set in Los Angeles instead of Baton Rouge, La.
The main similarity to Sex, Lies is in how the film shifts between
at least two levels of reality, one shot on film and the other with
hand-held video cameras. The "film" parts of Full Frontal, which
opens on Friday, are scenes from Rendezvous, the
movie-within-a-movie that is being shot with two Hollywood stars, played
by Julia Roberts and Blair Underwood, in the lead
roles. The video parts of Full Frontal follow them and five of
their friends (including David Duchovny, David Hyde Pierce and Catherine
Keener) through their off-screen lives for 24 hours.
Mr. Soderbergh shot Full Frontal in 18 days, for $2 million, right
after he finished the big-budget Ocean's Eleven. He recently spoke
by telephone with Elvis Mitchell of The New York Times about the change in
gears. Here are excerpts from the conversation.
ELVIS MITCHELL: Where does the title come from?
STEVEN SODERBERGH: The title was an attempt to excite Harvey Weinstein. He
liked the first title we had, which we changed because it didn't seem as
funny after Sept. 11 - How to Survive a Hotel Room Fire. And then I
came up with another title, The Art of Negotiating a Turn, which
Harvey said was the worst title he'd ever heard in his life. And I
thought, "O.K., my challenge now is to come up with something that will
make him levitate." So a week
later I called back and said, "I'm going to call it 'Full Frontal,'
And he said, "Now, that's one of the better titles I've heard." So it's a
naked, transparent marketing ploy.
EM: And what does it mean now in the context of the movie?
SS: Two things: One, it doesn't necessarily mean nudity. It could mean
lobotomy. But I guess it didn't seem totally inappropriate because to me
it connoted a certain emotional proximity. Like trying to strip things
down, make them raw.
EM: And how do you respond to the question: What is the movie about?
SS: Oh, the same as I always do. Our efforts to connect. I mean, it was
really that simple.
EM: But is it about connecting on a number of levels?
SS: Yeah, including issues of an audience and its attempts to connect with
a movie, and where aesthetics come into play in trying to forge that
connection. And making people think about why do they connect with certain
films and not with others, and what do they believe on screen and what do
EM: Why did you think you wanted to do something like this now? Is this
something that was floating around in your head for a while - this script
and this particular project?
SS: Yeah. I mean, I'd been talking to the writer for a while. But it
really, to my mind, was kind of bound to Ocean's Eleven. I really
felt like I couldn't do one without doing the other.
EM: It also comes after Erin Brockovich and Traffic, and
it's pretty different from those movies, too. They are so much motivated
by storytelling. And this, strictly speaking, is not. It feels anecdotal,
like the movies of the French New Wave.
SS: Well, right, exactly. I mean that was our hope. You look at that
Godard period of '59 to '67, and you admire his ability to sketch. And I
think you can get too caught up in this idea that every movie you make has
to be a mural. And I really felt like I'd been doing that, and I felt like
I needed to afford myself the opportunity to sketch - where things aren't,
you know, so weighted by expectation or budget.
It's not that I view the movie as incidental. It's just I liked the idea
of having the freedom to write with the camera, in a way. And in an
environment that seems safe, because of the scale of the project and the
way it would be made. It's a fun way to work; it's an interesting way to
work. It's sort of an irresponsible way to work if you're doing a movie on
any other scale than
EM: Did making Full Frontal change how you think about actors on
SS: No. It only confirmed what I've always believed, which is that giving
them responsibility is an exciting and fruitful way to work. There's a
difference between letting them do whatever they want and giving them a
EM: And when do you think you first did that - give them responsibility?
SS: I think I've always done that. I mean I don't think I would ever have
articulated it until the last few years. But I think I've always given
them a lot of room while dictating the shape of the room. But, you know, I
like them. I mean, working with actors is my favorite part of being on a
set. I live for those moments, for the surprise, you know.
EM: Did you want this to be lifelike?
SS: Yeah, emotionally. I mean in the "real" section of the film,
EM: But what about the movie-within-a-movie section of the film?
SS: There, I wanted life-like movie behavior. Which Blair and Julia, I
think, really understood well, I mean, I think there's a real difference
in their affect between Rendezvous and the real stuff.
I'm fascinated by the agreement that an audience enters into with a film.
There are layers to that agreement. The first one is when you buy your
ticket and the second one is when the film starts. And I think within a
certain period of time you begin to make judgments about whether of not
you want to enter into a contract with this movie. Why is that? And what
is it about a movie that gets you or doesn't get you? Keeping in mind, in
fact, that the thing is a construct - but this sort of idea of belief and
veracity I felt would be interesting to explore if you had these two
EM: Well, I was just thinking, Ocean's Eleven is so much about
artificiality. There really is not a breath of fresh air in the entire
movie. It almost feels as if Full Frontal was something you needed
SS: Oh, absolutely. I mean, it was being planned concurrently for
precisely that reason. I mean, I started thinking about it as we were
prepping Ocean's because I knew I was going into a movie in which,
I felt, at no point was I asking you to really believe anything that was
going on. Or buy into it in any real emotional sense. But I began to be
fascinated by that idea.
EM: Given that you wanted to make this feel as real as possible, how did
that affect your casting? Because in the middle of all this stuff about
the compact that we, as audience members, make with the screen, you've got
SS: Well, but that's why I think there's a difference between, let's say,
Julia and Blair, and the other people in the film. Julia and Blair are
playing actors, successful actors, and to me they fit my idea of what
movie stars look like. Now, the others, I think you could argue, don't
have that sort of, well, arresting physical presence.
SS: I felt like everyone else looked more like people who you sit next to
EM: Which is to say what character actors look like.
SS: Yeah. It's an odd little movie.