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Will 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.' Be Steven Soderbergh's Final Film Before Retirement?

by Kevin Jagernauth
December 22, 2010 7:59 AM
12 Comments
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Matt Damon Says Steven Soderbergh Is Dead Serious About Retiring By 51



OK, so this isn't exactly new and it's something Steven Soderbergh has mentioned a couple times over the last two years so, but the acclaimed director has long been considering retiring once his recent slate of pictures is complete. Back in the fall of 2009, he said he wasn't keen on still directing past of the age of 50 and that he hoped to retire within four years. And it looks like he's still sticking to that plan.

The LA Times recently caught up with Matt Damon, who is currently shooting "Contagion" with the director, and he revealed that retirement is still very much the plan for Soderbergh. "He's retiring, he's been talking about it for years and it's getting closer," Damon said. So why is Soderbergh looking to move on from the filmmaking world? He's just kind of bored and done with it.

"He wants to paint and he says he’s still young enough to have another career," Damon said. "He’s kind of exhausted with everything that interested him in terms of form. He’s not interested in telling stories. Cinema interested him in terms of form and that’s it. He says, 'If I see another over-the-shoulder shot, I’m going to blow my brains out.' " We feel you on that one, Steven.

So, if indeed Soderbergh lives the American dream of retiring very early, what will his last batch of films look like? Leave it to a very chatty Damon to map it out. “After this movie we’re doing ‘Liberace’ next summer with Michael Douglas, and then he might do one more movie after that with George [Clooney], and then after that he’s retiring."

As you might recall, Soderbergh recently signed on to direct the long gestating big screen adaptation of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." with George Clooney attached in the lead role. This is what Soderbergh's plate currently looks like: "And Everything Is Going Fine" is currently in theaters; "Contagion" is shooting and he'll get it ready for a fall 2011 release; "Haywire" is in the can will hit in the spring of 2011; "Liberace" will shoot next summer and depending on schedules, "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." will go in front of cameras in late 2011 or early 2012. And then, Soderbergh will start painting or stamp collecting or advocating for pay-per-view pornography being made available in every hotel across the country. But while we'll certainly be saddened that one of our favorite filmmakers will no longer lend his skills to cinema, we can't fault him either for wanting to take a step away and try something different. But Damon, is clearly a bit more upset about it.

"After I worked with Clint [Eastwood] I went back and said, ‘Look, Clint is having a blast and he's going to be 80 years old.’ And Steven says back, ‘Yeah, but he’s a storyteller and I’m not,’” Damon recounted. "If you're an actor or a writer or someone working in film, it's such a waste. For me, I'm going to spend the next 40 years trying to become a great director and I will never reach what he's reached. And he's walking away from it."

Soderbergh has always been his own toughest critic (he once said "Che" was a "a mistake from day one”) and it looks like he's finished spending 25 years trying to chase that elusive "great picture." Clearly, he believes he doesn't have what it takes (how wrong he is) and if we had to guess, we could see the helmer stepping away from Hollywood for a few years, recharging, reassessing and then making a roaring return. Clearly, there is something he does find compelling about the medium to have kept him in the game for this long but it seems like he needs to find out what that was. Wherever he goes, we'll be curious about what he's up to next. But for now, the sands in the hourglass are moving and we certainly seem to be in Soderbergh's cinematic twilight years.

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12 Comments

  • Zee | December 23, 2010 4:04 AMReply

    Why don't the aesthetics of UNCLE befit 3D? It seems like it would be a big studio action movie.

  • actionman | December 23, 2010 12:08 AMReply

    this would be a major loss for the worldwide filmmaking community.

    say it a'int so, joe...

  • Edward Davis | December 22, 2010 10:40 AMReply

    Everyone missed it I guess, but we reported back a few months ago that "The Last Time I Saw Michael Gregg" was not a film that was actually coming out and the Aussie press made too much of it. Soderbergh shot it as an experiment with actors, but it was never intended for release. So unless someone hears otherwise, scratch it off your list.

  • RNL | December 22, 2010 10:36 AMReply

    There's also "The Last Time I Saw Michael Gregg", the 'improv' film he shot while directing that play in Australia earlier this year.

  • Christopher Bell | December 22, 2010 10:22 AMReply

    I agree with his retirement being merely a holiday from film, although I feel like it's more away from the studio system than from the entire art itself. I know "Bubble" and "Girlfriend Experience" were part of a deal with HDNet, a deal which stipulates he would do something like 9 or 10 movies. I dunno if he would back away from something like that, plus, those small projects with non-actors seem to be some of his favorites from their respective interviews... unless I'm reading too much into'em.

  • Nathaniel Drake Carlson | December 22, 2010 9:53 AMReply

    Originally, he planned to make an adaptation of William Brinkley's The Last Ship as his follow up to sex, lies. Clearly that didn't happen. And I know he would have liked to have gotten a crack at the eternally elusive Edward Ford. But that was never going to happen either. Personally, I just always hoped he would reunite with Spader at least once. Their collaboration remains their mutual best in my opinion

  • Ken | December 22, 2010 9:34 AMReply

    I used to think he was "overrated" (hate that term, so lazy). I thought Out of Sight and Traffic were great and Sex, Lies, and Videotape was pretty good for a first film. The Limey was also decent. It wasn't until Che and The Informant! when I started to really like him as a filmmaker. His next group of projects sound really interesting too. So I guess that's why I'm so disappointed that he's retiring because I only recently started to get into him as a filmmaker.

  • cirkusfolk | December 22, 2010 9:19 AMReply

    Good riddance! I can't think of a more overrated director. His best film is Out of Sight.

  • rodie | December 22, 2010 9:16 AMReply

    I've interviewed Soderbergh before, pretty extensively. It seems he gets burned out (no kidding he works so much) every 10 years or so. I suspect he is being genuine about this retirement thing. But I highly doubt that his retirement will be permanent.

    My guess would be that he takes 5-6 years off, paints, travels, does whatever, then slowly starts developing something new, be it an art film, a low-budget indie or an interesting studio project. Then he'll become like Malick used to be or Kubrick became in his later years and only put out a movie every 7-8 years or so.

  • Edward Davis | December 22, 2010 9:14 AMReply

    Cleo is sadly, probably dead. It would have quenched 2 things he wants to do before retirement 3D and a musical, all in one obviously. He was gonna try 3D for Contagion and then the RED tests went poorly and he decided against it (too bad the new RED EPIC cameras seem to be fine for 3D).

    I would think doing a musical in this climate is not gonna happen and the aesthetics of UNCLE are NOT befitting of 3D at all, so yeah, he might just have to leave the game without tackling those two elements. I would guess if anything could draw him back it would be either one of those 2 elements.

    And Contagion will have a bit of a horror quality to it (though of the very realistic kind) if the script was any indication.

  • Ken | December 22, 2010 9:02 AMReply

    I find this to be disappointing too. A lot of directors don't even hit their stride until past 50... Hitchcock, Bunuel, Almodovar, Eastwood (obviously).

    You know how you did a piece on projects that fell through for Fincher? Is there anything like that for Soderbergh or has done pretty much everything he's wanted to do?

  • Hayden Maxwell | December 22, 2010 9:00 AMReply

    The man can not back away before making Cleo. He can't.

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