Director Steven Soderbergh is currently shooting his next film, Contagion, in Chicago with stars Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kate Winslet. But from the sound of it, Contagion may be among Soderbergh’s last endeavors as a filmmaker. Damon explains:
“After this movie [Soderbergh and I] are 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.”
More after the jump:
The news is, on the surface, a surprise. At 47, Soderbergh is still young and notably proficient: he has directed thirteen features since 2000, with two more on the way in 2011 (Contagion and Haywire). But in the context of Soderbergh’s style, with his fixture on form and technique, it starts to make sense. Damon shared a telling anecdote with 24 Frames, following his work with noted octogonerian Clint Eastwood on Hereafter.
“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.’”
Soderbergh has always explored the experimental side of film — the story-within-a-story of Full Frontal, the 1940s aesthetic of The Good German, the non-sequitir narration of The Informant! — to engage in production. But the actual process of filming a movie requires infinite repition, so it’s understandable why Soderbergh feels restless. Said Damon:
“[Soderbergh] wants to paint and he says he’s still young enough to have another career. 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.’ “
The Informant! proved to me that Soderbergh is still as sharp as ever, more than twenty years after the 1989 debut Sex, Lies, and Videotape. Contagion, Haywire, and Liberace automatically qualify for my most anticipated list of the next couple years. And if Soderbergh does plan to reunite with frequent collaborator George Clooney for this theoretical final film (quite possibly The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), I’m in. I love the idea of a master bowing out at the top of his game. But I will miss his voice in cinema. Damon, who wants to move into directing himself, agrees:
“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.”
This isn’t the first time we have heard about Soderbergh’s planned retirement. Two years ago, the director told Esquire
“I’m 45 now. When I turn 51, that’ll be 25 years. And that’s a lot of time to do one thing. And it’ll be, like, 30 movies. And that’s enough. I don’t want to have that falloff. I want to go out with Abbey Road.”
May The Man from U.N.C.L.E. be Abbey Road.
Haywire hits theaters April 22, 2011. Contagion follows on October 21, 2011.