Steven Soderbergh‘s next film to go into production is officially heading to Netflix. While we learned last month that Soderbergh’s NBA drama High Flying Bird, which he shot on an iPhone and is already in the can, was bought by the streaming service, but now Netflix is committing to Soderbergh’s next movie before he rolls cameras (or phones, whichever). Word surfaced in May that Netflix was eyeing Soderbergh’s drama The Laundromat, which is based on the book by Jake Bernstein called Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite. Now Deadline is making it official that Netflix will produce and distribute the film, while also revealing some more of the cast.
We already knew Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, and Antonio Banderas were in talks to star, but Deadline adds David Scwhimmer, Will Forte, and Riley Keough to the mix for what’s shaping up to be one of Soderbergh’s A+ ensemble movies like Traffic or Ocean’s Eleven. The film has a script by Soderbergh’s longtime collaborator Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, The Informant!) and chronicles how Mossack Fonesca, a Panamanian law firm, allowed the wealthy and the connected to funnel money illegally in and around the world via tax havens. Leaked documents known as the Panama Papers dated back to the 1970s and surfaced in 2015 from an anonymous source. So yeah, this very much sounds like Soderbergh is back in Traffic mode.
The filmmaker had recently been experimenting with unique models of distribution, starting with last year’s underrated heist comedy Logan Lucky. The idea was to distribute the film independently, using data to target where the limited marketing budget would be best spent, and to give all of the principals involved with the film access to up-to-the-minute reporting with regards to the movie’s gross. Unfortunately, the film only managed $48.5 million worldwide despite being an absolute delight. Soderbergh tried this process once more with his Claire Foy-fronted psychological horror film Unsane earlier this year (which he shot on an iPhone), but that film only managed $14.2 million worldwide—although with a budget of just $1.5 million the profit margin was much more agreeable.
Hopefully this doesn’t mean Soderbergh is leaving theatrical exhibition for good, but it’s understandable why he’d be heading to Netflix. While Soderbergh has diverse range, even his commercial movies can be more challenging than your average fare (Ocean’s Eleven looks like an art movie next to some of the blockbusters released nowadays). Netflix is giving filmmakers like Soderbergh, Alfonso Cuaron, and Martin Scorsese the freedom to make projects no other studio in town will make, and that certainly seems to be the case with The Laundromat despite an all-star cast.