Soderbergh Interview Part 2: On making ‘Side Effects,’ working in Hollywood and scaring Matt Damon
Photo: Open Road Films
In the first half of my interview with director Steven Soderbergh, he went into great detail about what he's going to do during his retirement: He's looking to do nothing less than reinvent cinema.
In this second half, Soderbergh talks about his insanely busy schedule -- he's made five, count 'em five, movies in the past two years -- the difficulties of working in Hollywood, and how he completely freaked out of Matt Damon.
Jonathan Crow: So that was ["Side Effects" screenwriter] Scott Z. Burns in the room with you just before I came in, right?
Steven Soderbergh: Right.
JC: Did he approach you to make "Side Effects"?
SS: No. "Side Effects" was something that he was developing for himself. I'd ask him every year to let me direct it. And then he'd say, "No, I want it." So a little over a year ago, when my "Man from U.N.C.L.E." remake blew up -- which he was writing for me -- I called him again, and I said, "This will be the last time I ask. Will you give me 'Side Effects'?" And he said, "Yeah. I thought we were going to be making a movie together, so let's make this one. I'll write something else for me." He's got tons of ideas.
So it all kind of came together pretty quickly. I mean, it had to, because I had Liberace already slotted for the summer. So it was either I make it in April  or bust.
JC: So you shot the whole thing in one month?
SS: It was like a 35-day shoot, so April and part of May. And then six weeks later, we started Liberace. We jumped off of one and back to the other, and then at a certain point we just finished them both at the same time.
JC: That must be really dizzying to keep track off.
SS: No, because it's the same production crew, same post crew. You just work on one project in the morning and then the other one in the afternoon.
JC: This still sounds crazy. I mean, you're making Woody Allen look lazy.
SS: He's lazy. He's obviously lazy. He could be doing two year and he's not. No, the key is I don't write. I work with writers but I don't write. That's why I can do it. And that's the reason I don't write anymore. I wrote like a director.
JC: What does that mean?
SS: I don't know. The scenes that I wrote were just kind of functional. They didn't have the kind of detail that I think good writing has. As soon as I understood that I'm not a writer, my work got better immediately. While shooting Liberace, I had an idea about a scene. I wrote an email to ["Beyond the Candelabra" screenwriter] Richard LaGravenese saying, "I think we need a scene that does this." And then I would send in my bad version of the scene. By the next morning, it would come back transformed. I'd think, "And that's why he's Richard LaGravenese." It's really fun to be in a room with somebody who's a real writer. I'm reliant on them at the end of the day to give it that filigree that's totally specific to them. You know?
JC: At same time, you put your own stamp on it.
SS: Of course you do. Because at the end of the day, making a movie is answering 10,000 questions, and they are your answers. So of course it has to reflect you.
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