Steven Soderbergh, Channing Tatum and MMA fighting champion Gina Carano impressed the notoriously fussy Comic-Con crowd in San Diego this past weekend by showing off the trailer and an intense action/fight sequence to the Academy Award-winning director's new spy-thriller, "Haywire."
But it almost wasn't that way and the filmmaker wasn't sure if Comic-Con was actually the right stage to debut the film. "We had to think about it for a second and ask ourselves if this was the right place to do it," Soderbergh told The Playlist in an exclusive interview via phone from San Diego a few short hours after "Haywire" footage hit Hall H. "We weren't sure if it was the right fit. but ultimately we decided, yeah, this is our take on the action film and we should show it off."
During our lengthy conversation -- more on "Haywire" tomorrow -- Soderbergh revealed to us a labor of love documentary he's been plugging away on for the last few years in his spare time: a making-of about the cult pic, "End of the Road," a 1970 counter-culture film written by one of his idols, screenwriter, essayist and satirist Terry Southern ("Dr. Strangelove," "Easy Rider," and "Barbarella" to name a few; Soderbergh donated a sizable and undisclosed sum of money to the New York Public Library in 2003 to keep their Southern archives alive). Directed by Aram Avakian (an editor on Arthur Penn's "Mickey One") the film starred James Earl Jones, Stacy Keach, Dorothy Tristan, Harris Yulin, was rated X for a controversial abortion scene and drew in arthouse crowds for its satirical bent in the vein of '60s and '70s establishment-challenging films such as "Putney Swope" and "Medium Cool."
“Aside from the director, everyone’s still alive, so we got some really good interviews out of everyone," he said noting that Warner Bros. will release the film on Blu-Ray in October as part of their re-discovered cinematic treasures series and his completed making-of doc will be on the extras. "It’s something we’ve been working on a for a few years, so I’m really excited for it to come out.”
Meanwhile, much was made in the past few days about Soderbergh "reneging" on his retirement plans this past weekend from reporters covering Comic-Con from afar, but the filmmaker confirmed to us he still has an exit strategy, saying he just wants to shy away from the retirement conversation because, "no one wants to hear you talk about leaving a high paying job." When asked if something like "Magic Mike" -- a last minute Channing Tatum male-stripper project -- could be one of many "last minute projects" that keeps delaying the director's plans to bow out he said, certainly not. "No, see, I told Channing, 'Look we can do this, but it has to be now and it has to be in September,' " he said of his open window of opportunity to shoot the film. "I'm still winding down." He's got a couple of films left on his plate including "Liberace" and "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." and is sticking to a two-year plan to get them completed.
Speaking of "Liberace," the filmmaker spoke of his desire to keep surprising and challenging himself and sometimes via genres he had not tackled -- i.e. the spy action genre in "Haywire." So, naturally, we asked if his Michael Douglas film with Matt Damon, could have musical segments, ala "Cleo," a 3D live-action rock ’n’ roll musical about Cleopatra that was announced in 2008, but fell apart. The answer is no, "Liberace" won't be much of a musical, but Soderbergh may still have plans for "Cleo."
“It was one of those things, it was ready to go, we had the financing for it and everything," he said of the $30 million dollar project that was to star Catherine Zeta-Jones, Hugh Jackman and feature music written by indie-rockers Guided By Voices. "But there was only a brief window of time for it and we missed it when there were some scheduling issues on the side of the cast.”
Still, there's a chance it could be revived in another form. "You know I really loved that script [by Guided By Voices member Jim Greer] and I have thought about taking that to the stage. It could still live somewhere like that," he said. At the same time he noted, "You don't want to make something, just for the sake of making it. You want to make sure you have an original take on things, but I really thought that was a good story worth telling."
Though when pressed, the filmmaker was wise enough to never say never about retirement. "I'm still going to be making things, I just may not be making feature films," he said of his dabbling in painting in art and photography. "I could also make some short film that takes a couple of years to make that doesn't adhere to any [traditional] marketing film structure," he said leaving he door slightly ajar, perhaps hinting at some possible art projects. "I've said it before, but it would be nice to free myself from the tyranny of narrative. It's nice to keep trying to surprise yourself and keep your creative senses fresh and on their toes."
"Haywire" hits theaters January 20, 2012. More from this interview in the upcoming days.
Here's the trailer for "End Of The Road."