Mike Fleming

UPDATE: If Steven Soderbergh really is determined to retire from filmmaking, he’s not doing a very good job of it. He’s been so prolific lately that he’s like the Natalie Portman of directors. Now, he has just committed to direct Channing Tatum in Magic Mike, a story of friendship set in the world of male strippers. Tatum plays the title character, who schools a young dancer in how to hustle on and off the stage. It’s a wild summer of dancing, partying and women. The inspiration for the film is Channing’s own experiences as a stripper when he was 19. Nick Wechsler is producing with Gregory Jacobs, Tatum and Reid Carolin. Carolin is writing the script.

“When Channing talked to me about this, I thought it was one of the best ideas I’d ever heard for a movie,” Soderbergh said in a statement. “I said I wanted in immediately. It’s sexy, funny and shocking. We’re using Saturday Night Fever as our model, so hopefully we’re on the right track.”

Said Tatum: “This was a wild and pivotal time in my life and I couldn’t be more thrilled to go down the rabbit hole with Steven.” Tatum is currently shooting 21 Jump Street and will next be seen starring in The Vow with Rachel McAdams and in Ten Year.

This new project comes after Soderbergh completed Haywire, his attempt to make an action star out of mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano by putting her in an espionage drama and surrounding her with proven pros like Tatum, Michael Douglas, Michael Fassbender and Ewan McGregor in a film Relativity Media releases in August. Soderbergh followed that by shooting Contagion, a drama about the outbreak of a deadly virus that has Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Marion Cotillard starring, and Warner Bros releasing in October.

Soderbergh will be squeezing this in between his plans to direct Douglas and Damon in Liberace, and then The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with his former partner and frequent onscreen collaborator George Clooney. Even though he runs the risk of being moviedom’s Brett Favre, I hope Soderbergh continues finding talent and scripts that keep him coming back for more. I can still remember being at Sundance years ago and watching how his film sex, lies & videotape changed the landscape of independent cinema by showing how an intelligent indie could play beyond a tiny arthouse theater circuit.

Then I saw how Soderbergh ended a run of mostly crappy adaptations of books by one of my favorite authors, Elmore Leonard, when he and Scott Frank transformed Out of Sight into the mature, sexy thriller it was on the page. Throw in Traffic, Erin Brockovich and King of the Hill, and how many working directors have a better list of credits? Soderbergh has said he feels exhausted by the process and seems to think he’ll run out of things to say. Favre should certainly stay retired, but Soderbergh should keep making films but maybe work in a vacation here and there. Making them back to back like he has been doing is enough to have any director pondering the rest home. Soderbergh’s repped by Anonymous Content and Mike Adler; Tatum by UTA, Management 360 and Craig Jacobson.

JANUARY 11: Steven Soderbergh has confirmed on a podcast with NFL Network’s Rich Eisen that he will indeed retire. That will happen, he said, after he directs Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in Liberace, and possibly makes his swan song The Man From U.N.C.L.E with George Clooney (he hopes). He’ll soon open the action espionage film Haywire with mixed martial arts star Gina Carano and wrapped Contagion with Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard and Jude Law. As a fan of Soderbergh’s work, from sex, lies and videotape to Out of Sight and others, my first reaction is that while there may be directors out there who might consider retirement, Soderbergh isn’t among them. My theory: He chose to lay out his plans to a sportscaster because he’s following the Brett Favre playbook. That starts with a tearful retirement announcement, and an eventual return whenever a good offer or boredom sets in. Since Soderbergh doesn’t have to worry about being face-planted into the turf by 300-pound defensive linemen, he can retire and un-retire into his 70s. Sure, he had a setback with Moneyball, and Scott Rudin and Angelina Jolie’s Cleopatra might eclipse the musical on the same subject Soderbergh planned to make with Catherine Zeta-Jones. But does anyone really think Soderbergh should hang it up?

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