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Soderbergh Hits Promo Circuit for Contagion, Talks Man From U.N.C.L.E. and New Film

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood November 20, 2011 at 3:27AM

Steven Soderbergh has been around the industry long enough to know the signs of a project that isn't firing on all cylinders. And he knows that once you go down the road of making too many compromises, the chances of turning out a movie you can be proud of are pretty slim. Better, he told me Friday night at an Academy-invited screening and cocktail promo party for "Contagion," his best-received movie in a while, to let "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." go before it really was too late. He doesn't regret losing out on "Moneyball" either, he says. If he hadn't been fired from the baseball picture, he says he wouldn't have gotten to make "Haywire" (January) with Channing Tatum, which led to stripper movie "Magic Mike." But not to "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."
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Steven Soderbergh.
Steven Soderbergh.

Steven Soderbergh has been around the industry long enough to know the signs of a project that isn't firing on all cylinders. And he knows that once you go down the road of making too many compromises, the chances of turning out a movie you can be proud of are pretty slim. Better, he told me Friday night at an Academy-invited screening and cocktail promo party for "Contagion," his best-received movie in a while, to let "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." go before it really was too late. He doesn't regret losing out on "Moneyball" either, he says. If he hadn't been fired from the baseball picture, he says he wouldn't have gotten to make "Haywire" (January) with Channing Tatum, which led to stripper movie "Magic Mike." But not to "The Man from U.N.C.L.E."

You could blame George Clooney's back troubles on "U.N.C.L.E." not going forward with Soderbergh. (More details at The Playlist.) That started the series of delays and rumors of possible casting (I never bought Bradley Cooper and Soderbergh together). "Contagion" writer Scott Z. Burns, who has a chance at an original screenplay nomination in a weak year--for degree of difficulty alone--is bummed that "U.N.C.L.E." won't proceed. But when one door closes another opens. Warners may make it with another director. And it looks like Burns has several directing opportunities ahead.

And while Soderbergh had planned to lead his team into production at Warners, that doesn't mean they won't coalesce on something else. This weekend they are all sitting down at Soderbergh's house for a pow wow to look over their available options--about three possible scenarios going forward--to fit into the open March start date before shooting Matt Damon and Michael Douglas as Liberace in "Behind the Candelabra." Soderbergh does NOT want to do another foreign sales venture like "Che," though. Even if it's an indie, he wants North American distribution in place.
 

This article is related to: Steven Soderbergh, Steven Soderbergh, In The Works


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.