Adds Burns, who wrote and directed 2006’s “PU-239,” which Soderbergh produced along with George Clooney, “It was always my plan to direct [‘Side Effects’].” But eventually Soderbergh’s pleas won out. “He has certainly helped me in my career and it was my honor to return the favor. As a screenwriter the goal is to get the movie made. If you’re not going to do it yourself, next best is that an amazing director is going to do it and include you in the process.”
Soderbergh, who won the best director Academy Award for “Traffic,” calls the result serendipity. And he’s seen it before. He was also set to helm “Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt. But his vision wasn’t the one the studio wanted, and he was left with 150 or so production people needing work. So he did the action-thriller “Haywire” with them instead, and met Tatum. The duo went on to make last year’s “Magic Mike,” a male stripper film with a heart. Another Soderbergh repeat ensemble cast member was born. The group includes Clooney, Law, and Matt Damon, who costars along with Michael Douglas in Soderbergh’s Liberace biopic “Behind the Candelabra,” set to air this spring on HBO.
Those actors, however, will soon have to find another steady director. Soderbergh swears he is, if not retiring from moviemaking, taking a much-needed hiatus of indeterminate duration.
In a long, wide-ranging conversation that veers from the way technology is rerouting people’s brains to how he tells his almost 22-year-old daughter to handle sexual harassment (strongly, smartly, and, if possible, humorously) to the play about the 1999 Columbine school shootings he plans to direct in New York from another script by Burns, Soderbergh says he’s hit the proverbial wall when it comes to directing films.
“It’s time to reassess and you can’t do that while you’re in it,” he says. “I don’t know what’s going to happen is the real answer. I do know that unless I can come back different, then I won’t come back. If I can’t annihilate everything that came before and reemerge as something different, then I won’t come back. . . . This is something that if you’re going to change, it has to be a complete scorched earth kind of thing, burn it down and see if you can start over.”
Soderbergh, who has a book in the works that he describes as downloading about the job of directing and who plans to auction much of his own movie memorabilia to raise money for a variety of charities, swears he won’t be like Barbra Streisand or the Who, returning to give just one more farewell concert year after year after year. He says his planned retirement isn’t another way to sell tickets to “Side Effects,” honest.
Anyway, he says he doesn’t believe talking to the media makes any difference at all when it comes to selling those tickets because, as he points out, most movies fail regardless. He says he thinks people are already decided about “Side Effects,” and that he can only hope the mystery holds in the interim.
“It’s hard because everybody knows everything now,” he says with a sigh. “I think at least the stuff that’s come out so far about the movie, people have been cool. They recognize we’re screwed if someone decides to tell the whole thing. You’re also screwing with your reader. Why would you want to screw with their experience? So don’t do it. I’d like everyone not to do it.”
Secret safe, Mr. Soderbergh.
Lynda Gorov can be reached at LGorov@aol.com.