In an interview Soderbergh gave with Kurt Anderson on Studio 360, Anderson asked him about the possibility of taking a bow from the directing chair after making another two movies, Liberace and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Soderbergh told him it was true:
“I just need to step out… When you reach the point where you’re like, ‘If I have to get into another van to do another scout, I’m just going to shoot myself,’ it’s time to let somebody else who’s still excited about getting in the van get in the van. It’s just time.”
Soderbergh had his big breakthrough with Sex, Lies, and Videotape back in 1989, which he wrote and directed, winning him the Palm d’Or at Cannes Film Festival and a nomination for Best Screenplay at the Academy Awards. He has since gone on to direct Erin Brokovich, all three of the Ocean’s Eleven series, and Traffic, which won four Academy Awards, including Best Director. More recently, has directed The Girlfriend Experience (with real-life porn star, Sasha Grey), The Informant!, and the two-part biopic of the life of Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
He has two films that he has finished filming, both coming out this year. Haywire will star Michael Douglas, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, and the rising star, Channing Tatum. And Contagion will star Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, and Gwyneth Paltrow, who I am glad to see returning again to the big and small screens after reducing her filming schedule to spend time with her family.
The two forthcoming movies that Anderson mentions, Liberace and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. will star Michael Douglas and George Clooney, respectively. For those unfamiliar with either, the former will be a film about the life of Wladziu Liberace, the famous pianist, played by Douglas. Though little is known of its plot, Matt Damon has been cast as Scott Thorson, Liberace’s alleged boyfriend, 38 years his junior, who tried to sue the pianist for $113 million, so it is likely this will at least make up part of the film. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was originally a ’60s television show that ran for four seasons on NBC, and features two secret agents, working for international espionage and law-enforcement agency, United Network Command for Law and Enforcement – U.N.C.L.E.
I hasten to add that in the interview with Anderson, Soderbergh doesn’t entirely commit himself fully to this retirement:
“There’s a certain grammar that goes along with making a certain kind of film that I just can’t figure out a way around. The tyranny of narrative is just starting to really wear on me. I’m convinced that there’s some other way of organising images and ideas that can create an emotional response in an audience, but I can’t figure out what it is. I certainly don’t think that I could get somebody to write a cheque to let me go off and take however long it takes to figure it out.”
He talks of the expectations from the higher-ups to reproduce the same kinds of films that he had already done that were successful in the past, and his desire to not do that anymore. So whilst he has said that he will be stepping out of the ring after filming his next two movies, I remain hopeful that this won’t be the end of Steven Soderbergh, that this won’t be the last we see of him. It may be wishful thinking, but I think he may take some time away from filmmaking to try and find that new way of organising images and ideas, and if and when he does, he will return and bring with him a film greater than any he’s done before.