According to Steven Soderbergh, the director is walking away from the cinematic world (at least for a while) after the theatrical release of Side Effects and the television movie Behind the Candelabra (a biopic about Liberace) starring Matt Damon and Michael Douglas. We've ranked the Top 10 Steven Soderbergh movies, and audiences will get to see if Side Effects joins that list when it premieres February 8.
If he’s going out now, he could not have chosen a better final movie with Side Effects (stay tuned for our review). The psychological thriller stars Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta Jones in a mind-bender that recalls the mysteries of another cinematic era.
We caught up with Soderbergh as he talked about his secret to working with the same actors and why they keep coming back, what’s next and why Behind the Candelabra compelled him to mount a television movie.
First, we wondered what the key to Soderbergh's success is with actors who all seem to want to return to working with him. “I’m a big screamer because you get things done when you yell at people,” Soderbergh said and laughed.
Tatum alone in the last year has appeared in the director’s Side Effects, Magic Mike and Haywire. Law appeared in his Contagion and Jones won an Oscar for her work on Traffic.
As teased in our Side Effects exclusive trailer, this isn’t your usual drama. It has layers and Soderbergh feels it puts up a mirror to society and a battle that we hardly knew we were waging.
“Scott (Burns, screenwriter) had a great phrase, he thought the movie was about the fact that we’ve declared war on sadness and I thought that was a great way at looking at the movie and that’s the way I was thinking about it because I think we do that here,” Soderbergh said. “Somehow the idea that we have peaks and valleys has become an issue and there needs to be an equilibrium that’s common to everyone which seems strange.”
He also liked how the story shifts from one star’s story (Mara, as shown in this Side Effects clip) to another. “It does another unusual thing in that it starts off being from Rooney’s point of view and then about halfway through you shift to Jude’s point of view. And making sure that was happening in a way that wasn’t too obvious was something we talked about a lot,” Soderbergh said.
That was indeed a challenge. “For me there were lots of things to think about both on a micro level and a macro level so it was fun. We rehearse, sort of. I just like to save it for when we’re rolling. It happens pretty quickly.”
The movie itself also shifts on many pivots, that continually keep the audience guessing. “What was fun for me about this was there were several different sort of layers on top of it that needed to be coordinated because it starts as movie ‘A’ and then it sort of becomes movie ‘B’ and then it becomes movie ‘C,’ he added. “I had to make sure stylistically that when these shifts happened, the story was taking a turn but the directorial choices were consistent.”
Given that it's such a miss a moment and you’re lost thriller, how does a director talk about Side Effects without giving anything away?
“There’s an issue, fortunately, that’s pretty fascinating and complex. You can talk about that. You can talk about the genre,” Soderbergh said. He then compared Side Effects to a few other movies that would be difficult to discuss as well. “We talked about Fatal Attraction. We talked about Jagged Edge. There was a kind of thriller that used to be made that was really fun to watch and they kind of stopped being made. I don’t know why. I was watching Double Indemnity last night and it’s like that -- it’s one of those movies that just keep turning.”
If Behind the Candelabra is a closing bookend to his first film, sex, lies and videotape, Soderbergh is more than pleased. “I felt very fortunate for Candelabra falling where it did, not only because I’ve worked with Michael (Douglas) and Matt (Damon) before, but it seemed to exist in a continuum for my first film,” Soderbergh said.
“At the end of the day, it was a relationship movie and the core of it was two people in a room. The difference in this case was they were in a hot tub. So I look at that as quite a progression.”
When it comes to what he will do next with his life, Soderbergh leans back, smiles and says, “Nothing.”