This year, Steven Soderbergh is releasing his first new film as a director since 2013’s Behind the Candelabra. Of course, this break wasn’t an accident—Soderbergh went into “retirement” after Candelabra, serving as director of photography on Magic Mike XXL and hopping back into the director’s chair on the small screen for The Knick. But with Logan Lucky, Soderbergh is not just back directing a movie, he’s back directing an extremely commercial movie.
The film revolves around siblings Jimmy, Clyde, and Mellie Logan, played by Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, and Riley Keough. They plan a heist at the Charlotte Motor Speedway just before the biggest race of the year, the Coca-Cola 600, but in order to do so must first break out their vault-opener from prison, John Bang (Daniel Craig). This is basically a heist movie with a strong Southern flair, with a terrific ensemble cast, and if that premise sounds a little like Ocean’s Eleven to you, that’s no coincidence.
Speaking with EW, Soderbergh says the similarities to the Ocean’s trilogy—which he directed—are part of what drew him to the film:
“On the most obvious level, it’s the complete inversion of an Ocean’s movie. It’s an anti-glam version of an Ocean’s movie. Nobody dresses nice. Nobody has nice stuff. They have no money. They have no technology. It’s all rubber band technology, and that’s what I thought was fun about it. It seemed familiar to me, but different enough. The landscape, the characters, and the canvass were the complete opposite of an Ocean’s film. What was weird is that I was working as a producer on Ocean’s Eight while we were shooting Logan, and it was kind of head-spinning. That’s like a proper Ocean’s film. This is a version of an Ocean’s movie that’s up on cement blocks in your front yard.”
Basically, give me this movie right now. Although it wasn’t only the premise that attracted Soderbergh. He also saw Logan Lucky as the perfect test case for a new film distribution model he’s been wanting to try. The movie hits theaters on August 18th via Bleecker Street and Soderbergh’s new venture Fingerprint Releasing, wherein Soderbergh aims to cut off the excess fat spent on releasing a movie and putting the profits right back into the pockets of the creative folks who actually made the film:
“By all standards, this is a studio movie. It’s a very commercial movie with movie stars in it that’s going to go out to 2,500 to 3,000 screens. The question is, ‘Can you do what the studios normally do from a distribution standpoint with a lot less resources and with a much better economic structure for the people who made the film?’… My feeling is that it’s gotten way to expensive to release a film wide, and the way that the economic structure of a studio is set up, if you’ve what we’ve done on this movie — which is everybody’s worked for scale — you’re too far away from your money. That’s why there is no middle man. There is no one talking a cut. The money is coming directly back to the creative pool.”
I’m certainly rooting for him. Studios seem to spend copious amounts of money on dozens of TV spots, banner ads in big cities, big trailer rollouts, etc. I’m curious to see what Soderbergh’s “scaled back” model of marketing this movie looks like, and if it works. There’s no doubt studios have gotten a bit excessive when it comes to marketing a film, to the point that we’re already exhausted by a movie well before it actually comes out.
As Logan Lucky serves as Soderbergh’s first post-retirement film, EW asked the filmmaker to explain what made him change his mind. As it turns out, it was working on his phenomenal Cinemax series The Knick:
“First, I was not going to be directing at all and just really take a sabbatical. Right as we were going to Cannes with Behind the Candelabra, which was in my mind going to be the official start of my enforced vacation, I got the script for The Knick. So I went from not doing anything and exploring my future as a painter to starting to shoot a ten-hour television show in four months. The Knick scared me. We had to shoot 600 pages in 73 days. I’ve worked on some films with pretty aggressive schedules. This was on another order of magnitude, and I was terrified. This was something that was keeping me up at nights, wondering if this was really too big a reach. About a week in, I realized that there was a rhythm that was actually really exhilarating to be had and we were going to make it. I was sitting there on set, realizing that this is the job that I should be doing. This is my job. I should be directing stuff. Nobody’s waiting around for my paintings. So I kind of flipped a switch. I got reconnected with what I like about the job. For a while, I was just very, very happy to be working in that form. I loved working with a ten-hour canvass. It was really fun, and I wasn’t really thinking about movies… until this script came in over the transom. If it hadn’t, I think everything would be TV oriented.”