Is Steven Soderbergh done with directing? Matt Damon seems to think so, and the filmmaker himself admitted that he was “exhausted” on Rich Eisen’s NFL podcast back in January. Now, in an interview with Kurt Anderson for Studio 360, Soderbergh talks at length about his plans to move on from filmmaking (admittedly, only after he wraps up work on his next four films). Says the director, “You know when you see one of those athletes hang on two seasons too long? It’s kind of sad, because then your last image of them isn’t when they were great…I mean, why not go out with Abbey Road?”
As you might expect from the creative mind who created movies as diverse as Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, The Girlfriend Experience, and the four-hour two-film epic Che, Soderbergh’s feelings about his “retirement” are quite complex, and come from an exhaustion less physical than existential:
“The tyranny of narrative is starting to really weigh on me. I’m convinced that there’s some other way of organizing images and ideas that can create an emotional response in an audience. I can’t figure out what it is. I certainly don’t think I could get somebody to write a check to let me go off and take however long it takes to figure it out. I just need to step out. I’ve been running really fast in a certain direction for awhile. I want a change.”
“It’s a sense of having been there before,” Soderbergh continues. “That’s when I started thinking seriously about a shift. I don’t like that feeling. I don’t like the feeling of repeating something I’ve done.” Soderbergh notes that he’s not quite done yet – besides the already-completed films Haywire and Contagion, he’s in pre-production on the Liberace biopic with Matt Damon and Michael Douglas, and he’s currently planning to make a film version of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (starring longtime collaborator George Clooney) as his cinematic swan song. “Everything else, I’ve gotten rid of,” he tells Anderson. “For the last three years, I’ve been turning down everything that comes my way. You’re not gonna have Steven Soderbergh to kick around anymore.”
That last sentence is, of course, a riff on something Richard Nixon said when he retired…eight years before becoming president. I’m holding out hope that Soderbergh just needs to recharge his creative batteries, Jordan-playing-baseball style, and that he’ll return to filmmaking eventually. Soderbergh is only 48 years old. (Even if he took a Terrence Malick-style 20-year break from filmmaking, he’d still just be the same age as Clint Eastwood was 12 films ago.) I realize that Soderbergh’s films aren’t always everyone’s cup of tea – heck, I’m a fan of the guy, and even I couldn’t stand The Good German – but it’s always interesting to see an artist willingly retire very near the top of his game.
PopWatchers, what do you think about Soderbergh’s pronouncements? Does this make you more excited about his next few film projects? And isn’t there some way that Soderbergh’s billionaire pal Mark Cuban could just write the guy a check and let him find “a new way of organizing images and ideas”? Hey, it can’t be worse than a Charlie Sheen show. Also, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys Michael Curtiz shout-outs, be sure to check out the full audio of the interview.