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Steven Soderbergh Finally Tackling Long-Gestating Adaptation Of 'Sot-Weed Factor' For 12-Hour TV Series

by Kevin Jagernauth
March 29, 2013 5:13 PM
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The Sot-Weed Factor Steven Soderbergh

While Steven Soderbergh may be done with narrative filmmaking for the moment, his "retirement" will perhaps find him busier than ever, but not on projects that will be screened at a multiplex near you. He's got his hands in stage musicals for "Magic Mike" and "Cleopatra," he's directing a play this fall, he'll be focusing on painting and writing books, and he's got some kind of web thing called Extension 765 he's launching soon too. But it seems he's also circling back to a project that had been kicking around a while, and might be familiar to devoted Soderbergh heads.

EW reports that the writer/director is currently adapting John Barth's "The Sot-Weed Factor" into a 12-hour series for television. This is something he's been talking up for a few years now, but it finally seems like he's figured out a way into the ambitious project. The sprawling, celebrated 1960 book is a parody of picaresque novels such as "Tristram Shandy" and "Tom Jones." Set in 1600, it tells the story of a recently transplanted English poet who moves to Maryland, taking over his father's tobacco farm. So, it's exactly the sort of adventurous project that wouldn't easily get made no matter what Soderbergh's career status might be, but he teases he has an approach that's both creative and fiscally viable.

“I think I’ve come up with a solve to do it cheaply. It’s bold. If it works, it’ll be super cool. And if it doesn’t, you won’t be able to watch ten minutes of it,” he explains. “I don’t want to make a f—ing $85 million, 12-hour comedy set in the [1600s]. That’s why I started thinking this way.” So maybe it's been contemporized to some degree? And it's not just the narrative he's playing with, but the entire set up of the project -- don't necessarily expect him to sign up with HBO (who are releasing "Behind The Candelabra") as he wants to try something fresh.

“I’ll be interested to see what kind of deal I can make that’s good: Not getting paid up front, but participating and owning it in some meaningful way if it works. If I agree that I’m going to make this thing as lean and mean as possible, what do I get for that? Everything is changing so fast, there may be some new way of skinning the cat that I don’t even know about,” he wonders aloud.

So yeah, sign us up if/when this happens. While the movies may not be interesting for Soderbergh anymore, his restless creative spirit has more than a few outlets to choose from, and we'd love to see what he could do in the current television landscape (remember, he's been on the small screen before with "K Street"). We'll be keeping an eye out.

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  • i seriously hope you guys ross douthat | March 30, 2013 9:31 AMReply

    Haha, very glad to hear he hasn't retired after all!

  • Ted Fontenot | March 30, 2013 8:24 AMReply

    Giles Goat=Boy might be more accessible than The Sot Weed Factor if he wants to film post-modern meta-fiction by Barth. It too has a sprawling convoluted narrative, but its story and detail involve messianic myth, the Cold War, in a futuristic fantasy/science fiction setting.

    Actually, Barth's more conventional first novel The Floating Opera about the last day of a man who intends to kill himself for philosophical reasons (told 17 years after) would make a great movie, or short Cable series.

  • hank | March 29, 2013 8:17 PMReply

    can we stop talking about his retirement that is never going to happen now.

  • The Fanciful Norwegian | March 31, 2013 2:19 AM

    Soderbergh has been saying for at least a year he'd still do TV after quitting theatrical features. I don't see the disingenuousness.

  • hank | March 31, 2013 12:22 AM

    oh, right. he's retired from "feature films" now he's just going to make a 12 hour fucking movie.

  • d | March 29, 2013 8:54 PM

    He's retired from feature films, just like he said he was going to.

  • bwaters | March 29, 2013 5:51 PMReply

    Both Tristam Shandy and Tom Jones ARE parodies...

  • hank | March 31, 2013 12:21 AM

    oh, right. he's retired from "feature films" now he's just going to make a 12 hour fucking movie.

  • Xian | March 29, 2013 7:39 PM

    Actually, yes... Sot-Weed Factor is a post-modernist deconstruction of the form (making it "meta-" in a sense).

    Film it by candlelight like Barry Lyndon... it'll be a hoot!

  • No | March 29, 2013 6:34 PM

    So, "Sot-Weed Factor" is a meta-parody.

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