Exclusive: Steven Soderbergh's Next Film Will Be Scott Z. Burns' Psychological Thriller 'The Bitter Pill'

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by Oliver Lyttelton
November 29, 2011 4:04 PM
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Whether he's retiring, or taking a hiatus, or whatever, Steven Soderbergh's made it clear in recent months that after his HBO Liberace biopic "Behind the Candelabra," with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, we're not going to see a film from him for a while. But he's also seemingly keen to fit in as many films as he can into that timeframe, having added male stripper drama "Magic Mike" to his schedule earlier in the year.

But when his studio thriller "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." reached casting and budgetary roadblocks, Soderbergh bailed, seemingly blowing one of those precious retirement slots. But the least lazy man in Hollywood wasn't content to sit on his hands for a few months; he was keen to make a film in that period between "Magic Mike" and "Behind The Candelabra," and went to work on finding a film that could be ready to shoot early next year. And it looks like they've found it. 

The Playlist can reveal that Soderbergh has selected his next project, and it's from one of his most frequent collaborators in recent years; Scott Z. Burns, the writer of "The Informant!," "Contagion" and the script for "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." The project is called "The Bitter Pill," (formerly known as "The Side Effects") and it's a psychological thriller that only a few months back, Burns was intending on directing himself.

Born out of research for Peter Berg's swiftly cancelled TV drama "Wonderland," the project, according to Burns, "deals with people and their moods. It’s about how we as a society can’t tolerate sadness and what that makes us vulnerable to." But it certainly leans towards a genre thriller. Our source compared the New York-set film to "Fatal Attraction," while Burns told us in an interview earlier in the year that, "It’s definitely got a twist."

"It’s a story where it’s like if someone were listening to the conversation you and I were having and thought 'Hmmm, if that’s the way that society is working how can I manipulate that, how can I use that?' And that’s what the movie’s about," Burns elaborated.

Burns wrote the project for himself to direct, and was planning on getting underway with casting any day now, but Sodebergh has been a fan of the script for several years (since his version of "Moneyball" fell through), and when he left 'U.N.C.L.E,' was finally able to persuade his friend to let him take over. The project is being produced by Soderbergh's regular AD/producer Gregory Jacobs, and Lorenzo DiBonaventura, who was a big supporter of the director during his time at Warner Bros., and a number of big studios are currently circling the film including Summit and Paramount. A deal will likely be reached soon.

There's no word as yet on casting, but while we know that the filmmaker was keen to work with George Clooney one more time before he hung up his viewfinder, the lead in this film is for someone in their 30s. Either way, it's exciting news, and should be moving quickly if it's to make the spring shoot window before the Liberace project goes before cameras next summer.

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