While I have been on record expressing the sentiment that there are many filmmakers who should retire before Steven Soderbergh, I just got off the phone with the filmmaker. And damn it, he still wants to punch out by the time he hits 50. “I’m still following my plan,” he told me. “I’ve been stupid about it, I should have kept my mouth shut, but at the same time, I don’t think there’s anything that unusual about it. By the time I finish with the series of projects I’m planning, it will be 26 or 27 films. That’s plenty and if you take volume over quality; I’m twice as good as Kubrick.”
Forecasting his exit also didn’t help in terms of preparing the industry to make a fuss over him. “I figured by giving them two years lead time, they would line up those lifetime achievement awards, but there have been no calls or anything,” Soderbergh joked. Asked what he would like, he said, tongue firmly in cheek, “The Oprah thing. A year-long daily celebration of my fabulousness would be nice. Or maybe just a smallish parade.”
Soderbergh and I were speaking about Relativity Media’s decision to release Haywire, which it financed but set distribution originally through Lionsgate. Though that picture was shot before Contagion – the thriller about the outbreak of a deadly virus that stars Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Jude Law – Haywire will be released Jan. 20, 2012, three months after Contagion. Soderbergh will talk the picture up while promoting Contagion, which he feels will help an action film that leans heavily on Gina Carano, known only to mixed martial arts fans who’ve seen her fight on the circuit. Soderbergh also liked the Relativity move because it reunites him with Relativity’s new marketing chief Terry Curtin, with whom Soderbergh worked at Universal on Erin Brockovich.
“I think it might be best for Haywire to follow Contagion, which is the kind of film people like to see me make,” Soderbergh said. “It’s in the vein of Traffic, an entertaining multi-layered story about something timely right now. Because Gina has never been in a movie before, being able to draft off Contagion will be very good. We knew she could do the right stuff, but she really delivers as a screen presence. She looks comfortable, and then she tears these guys in half.”
Soderbergh said he’ll start work in September on Magic Mike, the film that will star Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer as male strippers in a coming-of-age story reminiscent of Saturday Night Fever. He’ll follow by directing George Clooney in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in February. After that, Liberace with Michael Douglas and Damon will likely be Soderbergh’s swan song. While I reminded him that he’s walking away at a time when he has plenty to say and the wisdom to know how to solve problems that maturity brings, he disagreed.