Steven Andrew Soderbergh (//; born January 14, 1963) is an American film producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, and an Academy Award-winning film director. He is best known for directing critically acclaimed commercial Hollywood films like Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich and Traffic, and the remake of Ocean's Eleven. He has also directed smaller, less conventional works, such as Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Schizopolis, Bubble, The Girlfriend Experience and Che. His most recent works are Contagion and Haywire.
He is attached to direct the 2014 reboot film of Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy (2014 film) for a release that soon-to-be summer of the forecoming year.
Soderbergh was born in Atlanta, the son of Mary Ann (née Bernard) and Peter Andrew Soderbergh, who was a university administrator and educator. His paternal grandfather was a Swedish immigrant, from Stockholm. When he was a child, his family moved from Atlanta to Charlottesville, Virginia, where he lived during his adolescence, then moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where his father became Dean of Education at Louisiana State University (LSU). There he discovered filmmaking as a teenager, directing short Super 8 mm films with equipment borrowed from LSU students.
While the family resided in Baton Rouge, Soderbergh's mother appeared regularly on a local ABC-affiliate's (WBRZ-TV/broadcast channel 2) early-morning show ("2une In") as a "call-in" psychic, and taught adult-education and "alternative education" classes in "parapsychology" at LSU.
His primary high school education was at Louisiana State University Laboratory School, a K-12 school that is directed by the University. While still taking classes there around the age of fifteen, Soderbergh enrolled in the university's film animation class and began making short 16 mm films with secondhand equipment.
Rather than attending LSU, Soderbergh tried his luck in Hollywood after graduating from high school; he worked as a game show scorer and cue card holder to make ends meet, and eventually found work as a freelance film editor.
1989: rise to prominence: Sex, Lies, and VideotapeEdit
It wasn't until Soderbergh came back to Baton Rouge that he conceived the idea for Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), which he wrote in eight days. The independent film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, became a worldwide commercial success and greatly contributed to the 1990s independent film revolution. At age 26, Soderbergh became the youngest director to win the festival's top award. Movie critic Roger Ebert dubbed Soderbergh the "poster boy of the Sundance generation".
1993 to 1998Edit
Sex, Lies, and Videotape was followed by a series of low-budget box-office disappointments: Kafka, a biopic mixing fact and Kafka's own fiction (notably The Castle and The Trial), written by Lem Dobbs and starring Jeremy Irons as Franz Kafka; King of the Hill (1993), a critically acclaimed Depression-era drama; The Underneath (1995), a remake of Robert Siodmak's 1949 film noir Criss Cross; and Schizopolis (1996), a comedy which he starred in, wrote, composed, and shot as well as directed. He also directed the Spalding Gray monologue film Gray's Anatomy in 1996.
Making good on his Schizopolis-inspired "artistic wake-up call", his commercial slump ended in 1998 with Out of Sight, a stylized adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel, written by Scott Frank and starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. The film was widely praised, though only a moderate box-office success. It reaffirmed Soderbergh's potential, sparking the beginnings of a lucrative artistic partnership between Clooney and Soderbergh.
1999 and 2000Edit
Soderbergh followed up on the success of Out of Sight by making another crime caper, The Limey (1999), from an original screenplay by Lem Dobbs and starring veteran actors Terence Stamp and Peter Fonda. The film was well-received, but not as much as Erin Brockovich (2000), written by Susannah Grant and starring Julia Roberts in her Oscar-winning role as a single mother taking on industry in a civil action. Later that year, Soderbergh released Traffic, a social drama written by Stephen Gaghan and featuring an ensemble cast.
Traffic became his most acclaimed movie since Sex, Lies, and Videotape, and earned him an Academy Award for Best Director. He was also nominated that same year for Erin Brockovich. He is the only director to have been nominated in the same year for Best Director for two different films by the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes and the Directors Guild of America. The double nomination was the first in 60 years. (In 1938, Michael Curtiz was nominated twice, for Angels with Dirty Faces and Four Daughters, but did not win for either film.)
2001 to 2007Edit
Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy García, Julia Roberts, and Soderbergh in December 2001Ocean's Eleven (2001), a Ted Griffin-scripted remake from a Rat Pack-movie from 1960, featuring an all-star cast and flashy aesthetics, is Soderbergh's highest grossing movie to date, grossing more than $183 million domestically and more than $450 million worldwide. The film's star, George Clooney, subsequently appeared in Solaris (2002), marking the third time the two have headlined a film. In the same year, Soderbergh made Full Frontal which was shot mostly on digital video in an improvisational style that deliberately blurred the line between which actors were playing characters and which were playing fictionized versions of themselves. A film within a film, the title is a film industry reference to an actor or actress appearing fully nude (a.k.a., "full frontal nudity"). Also in 2002, Soderbergh was elected First Vice President of the Directors Guild of America.
Following up Full Frontal stylistically was Soderbergh next project, K Street (2003), a ten-part political HBO series he co-produced with Clooney. The series was noteworthy for being both partially improvised and each episode being produced in the 5 days prior to airing to take advantage of topical events that could be worked into the fictional narrative. Actual political players appeared as themselves, either in cameos or fictionalized versions of themselves (as were the leads, real life husband and wife James Carville and Mary Matalin). The show caused a stir during the 2004 Democratic Primary when Carville gave candidate Howard Dean a soundbite during a location shoot that Dean then used in a debate.
Ocean's Twelve (2004), a sequel to Ocean's Eleven, has followed. The Good German, a romantic drama set in post-war Berlin starring Cate Blanchett and Clooney, was released in late 2006. The sixth pairing of Clooney and Soderbergh, Ocean's Thirteen, was released in June 2007.
In 2006, Soderbergh raised eyebrows with Bubble, a $1.6 million film featuring a cast of nonprofessional actors. It opened in selected theaters and HDNet simultaneously, and four days later on DVD. Industry heads were reportedly watching how the film performed, as its unusual release schedule could have implications for future feature films. Theater-owners, who at the time had been suffering from dropping attendance rates, did not welcome so-called "day-and-date" movies. National Association of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian indirectly called the film's release model "the biggest threat to the viability of the cinema industry today." Soderbergh's response to such criticism: "I don't think it's going to destroy the movie-going experience any more than the ability to get takeout has destroyed the restaurant business." The film did poor business both at the box office and on the home video market. Nevertheless, Soderbergh is on contract to deliver five more day-and-date movies. In fall of 2006 he contributed a mini-essay on hotel pornography, along with an accompanying series of long-exposure photographs, to Anthem magazine's November/December issue.[clarification needed]
On May 22, 2008, Che, which was released in theatres in two parts titled The Argentine and Guerrilla, was presented in the main competition of the 2008 Cannes film festival. Benicio del Toro plays Argentine guerrilla Ernesto "Che" Guevara in an epic four-hour double bill which looks first at his role in the Cuban revolution before moving to his campaign and eventual death in Bolivia.
His next film was 2009's The Informant! a black comedy starring Matt Damon as corporate whistleblower Mark Whitacre. Whitacre wore a wire for two and a half years for the FBI as a high-level executive at a Fortune 500 company, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), in one of the largest price-fixing cases in history. The film was released on September 18, 2009. The script for the movie was written by Scott Z. Burns based on Kurt Eichenwald's book, The Informant.
In 2009, Soderbergh directed a play titled Tot-Mom for the Sydney Theatre Company in Sydney, Australia. The play is based on the real-life case of Caylee Anthony. Rehearsals commenced in early November 2009, and the production opened December 2009. Soderbergh also shot a small improvised film with the cast of the play, The Last Time I Saw Michael Gregg, a comedy about a theatre company staging Chekhov's Three Sisters.
In the fall of 2010, he shot the epic virus thriller Contagion, written by Scott Z. Burns. With a star-studded cast including Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard and Jude Law, the film follows the outbreak of a lethal pandemic across the globe and the efforts of doctors and scientists to discover the cause and develop a cure. It was released on September 9, 2011.
In September and October 2011, he shot Magic Mike, a film starring Channing Tatum, about the actor's experiences working as a male stripper in his youth. Tatum plays the title mentor character, while Alex Pettyfer plays a character based on Tatum. The film is expected to be released in the summer of 2012 in the US.
Soderbergh had planned to follow this in early 2012 with a feature version of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., also written by Scott Z. Burns. The film was set to reunite him with George Clooney, but Clooney had to drop out of the film due to a recurring back injury suffered while filming Syriana. As of November 2011, Soderbergh had dropped out of the film due to budget and casting conflicts.
His next project is the psychological thriller The Bitter Pill. It was reported the cast will include Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Filming will take place in April 2012 for a release in the first half of 2013.
Behind the Candelabra, his final film, is set to shoot in the Summer of 2012. It will star Michael Douglas as legendarily flamboyant pianist Liberace and Matt Damon as his lover Scott Thorson. The film is written by Richard LaGravenese, based on Thorson's book Behind the Candelabra: My Life With Liberace. It will be produced by HBO Films.
Soderbergh has announced in numerous interviews his intention to retire from filmmaking after finishing these three films to focus on his painting full-time. He stated that "when you reach the point where you're saying, 'If I have to get into a van to do another scout, I'm just going to shoot myself,' it's time to let somebody who's still excited about getting in the van, get the van." Soderbergh later confirmed that he would retire from filmmaking and begin to explore painting. A few weeks later, Soderbergh played down his earlier comments, saying a film-making "sabbatical" was more accurate.
Soderbergh nearly filmed a feature adaptation of the controversial state-of-baseball tome Moneyball, starring Brad Pitt and Demetri Martin. The book, by Michael Lewis, tells of how Billy Beane, general manager of Oakland Athletics, used statistical analysis to make up for what he lacked in funds to beat the odds and lead his team to a series of notable wins in 2002. Disagreements between Sony and Soderbergh about revisions to Steven Zaillian's version of the screenplay led to Soderbergh's dismissal from the project only days prior to filming in June 2009. The move by Sony's Amy Pascal, unprecedented in recent history, sent shockwaves through the industry. The film was eventually made by director Bennett Miller, with a script rewritten by Aaron Sorkin. It was critically acclaimed and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Around the same time, he planned a 3D live-action rock musical film based on Cleopatra's life entitled "Cleo", with Catherine Zeta-Jones in talks to play Cleopatra, and with music by the band Guided by Voices. Soderbergh and scriptwriter James Greer were said to be rewriting the lyrics of the songs to fit the story. Hugh Jackman was approached to play Mark Antony but withdrew.
He also worked for a time with writer Scott Z. Burns on a biopic of controversial Nazi-era film director Leni Riefenstahl, but he and Burns ended up abandoning that script as too uncommercial, making Contagion instead.
Directorial style and collaborationsEdit
Soderbergh frequently works with actors on more than one occasion. The following is a list of notable collaborators (in order of first film appearance):
- Peter Gallagher (sex, lies, and videotape and The Underneath)
- Ron Vawter (sex, lies, and videotape and King of The Hill)
- Jeroen Krabbe (Kafka, King of the Hill and Ocean's Twelve)
- Joe Chrest (King of the Hill, The Underneath, Schizopolis, Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Full Frontal, Ocean's Thirteen and The Informant!)
- Spalding Gray (King of the Hill, Gray's Anatomy and And Everything is Going Fine)
- Eddie Jemison (Schizopolis, Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve, Ocean's Thirteen, and The Informant!)
- Don Cheadle (Out of Sight, Traffic, Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen)
- George Clooney (Out of Sight, Ocean's Eleven, Solaris, Ocean's Twelve, The Good German and Ocean's Thirteen)
- Viola Davis (Out of Sight, Traffic and Solaris)
- Luis Guzmán (Out of Sight, The Limey, and Traffic)
- Catherine Keener (Out of Sight and Full Frontal)
- Terrence Stamp (The Limey and Full Frontal)
- Albert Finney (Erin Brockovich, Traffic and Ocean's Twelve)
- Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich, Ocean's Eleven, Full Frontal and Ocean's Twelve)
- Michael Douglas (Traffic, Haywire and Behind the Candelabra)
- Topher Grace (Traffic, Ocean's Eleven and Ocean's Twelve)
- Benicio del Toro (Traffic and Che)
- Catherine Zeta-Jones (Traffic, Ocean's Twelve and The Bitter Pill)
- Matt Damon (Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve, Ocean's Thirteen, Che Part 2: Guerrilla, The Informant!, Contagion and Behind the Candelabra)
- Elliott Gould (Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve, Ocean's Thirteen and Contagion)
- Brad Pitt (Ocean's Eleven, Full Frontal, Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen)
- Enrico Colantoni (Full Frontal and Contagion)
- Jude Law (Contagion and The Bitter Pill)
- Channing Tatum (Haywire, Magic Mike and The Bitter Pill)
"I've always gotten along with them," says Soderbergh of actors, "I try and make sure they're OK, and when they're in the zone, I leave them alone. I don't get in their way." His non-intrusive directorial style has attracted repeat performances by many high-profile movie stars. Julia Roberts had supporting roles in Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve, and Full Frontal, and won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her lead in Erin Brockovich. Benicio del Toro, who also won an Academy Award for his work in a Soderbergh film (Traffic), later starred in Guerrilla and The Argentine. Catherine Zeta-Jones won a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Helena in Traffic (2000) and reteamed with him for box-office hit Ocean's Twelve (2004). But the actor he has collaborated most frequently with is George Clooney, who played the leading role six of his films, and with whom he co-owned the film production company, Section Eight Productions. Section Eight produced the critical hits Far From Heaven, Insomnia, and Syriana as well as the Clooney-directed films Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and Good Night, and Good Luck.
Soderbergh often acts as his own director of photography under the alias of Peter Andrews and occasionally as his own editor under the alias of Mary Ann Bernard. While shooting Traffic, Soderbergh wanted a credit of "Photographed and Directed by". The Writer's Guild (WGA) wouldn't allow another credit ahead of the writer. Because Soderbergh didn't want his name used more than once, he adopted a pseudonym, Peter Andrews, his father's first and middle names.
Soderbergh has made big-budget Hollywood films as well as art-house independent films; works with above-the-title movie stars and unknowns; directs adaptations and original material, both of which written by himself as well as other screenwriters. His versatility is also apparent with the genres which he chooses to film and his trades as a filmmaker behind the scenes. Traffic screenwriter and Syriana director Stephen Gaghan named Soderbergh "the Michael Jordan of filmmaking" for his ability to assume so many distinct roles in film production.
While Soderbergh is enamoured of dialogue, Soderbergh's incorporation of score and montage are equally prevalent in his story-telling. Even Soderbergh's light-hearted affairs, such as Out of Sight and Ocean's 11, contain scenes where images and score are the dominant story-telling mechanisms. Films such as Solaris and Traffic are heavily layered in scenes absent of dialogue altogether. Cliff Martinez, a frequent collaborator with Soderbergh, composes many of the scores that provide Soderbergh with the thematic and sonic landscapes into which he inserts his characters.
But while Soderbergh's subject matter is highly varied, many of his films feature as a central theme the exploration of the act or moral consequences of lying. For example, the protagonists in two early films, King of the Hill and Sex, Lies, and Videotape, are both pathological liars (one in training, one in recovery), while most of the characters in all three Oceans films are con artists. It is interesting to note that he directed Spalding Gray in Gray's Anatomy after King of the Hill, an actor who often commented that he was unable to "make anything up". Full Frontal is another film in this thread, where seemingly the fundamental dishonesty of the entire filmmaking process is exposed. More distantly, Soderbergh's interest in rhyming slang, as seen in The Limey and the Oceans films, may be seen as part of this theme, based on the conjectured origin of rhyming slang as a language game.
In his review of Full Frontal film critic Roger Ebert commented that, "Every once in a while, perhaps as an exercise in humility, Steven Soderbergh makes a truly inexplicable film... A film so amateurish that only the professionalism of some of the actors makes it watchable... It's the kind of film where you need the director telling you what he meant to do and what went wrong and how the actors screwed up and how there was no money for retakes, etc." About Soderbergh's film, The Good German and his emphasis on style over substance, film critic Richard Roeper commented that the film had to offer, "a lot of style. Not so much with the plot."
Soderbergh has, nonetheless, been dubbed a stylistic chameleon by Anne Thompson of Premiere Magazine. Drew Morton has extensively researched Soderbergh and has tied him to a modern movement much like the French New Wave.
Soderbergh also has a track record of honorable contributions in the cinematic arts; when the papers of Terry Southern were potentially in limbo following his untimely death in 1995, Soderbergh purchased and then donated the papers to the New York Public Library. Naqoyqatsi, the final chapter of Godfrey Reggio's Qatsi trilogy, was completed after a delay of more than 10 years, only after Soderbergh stepped in to provide the necessary funding.
Soderbergh claims to not be a fan of possessory credits, and prefers not to have his name front and center at the start of a film. "The fact that I'm not an identifiable brand is very freeing," says Soderbergh, "because people get tired of brands and they switch brands. I've never had a desire to be out in front of anything, which is why I don't take a possessory credit."
On Monday, April 5, 2009, Soderbergh appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, and "cited the French initiative in asking lawmakers to deputize the American film industry to pursue copyright pirates," indicating he supports anti-piracy laws and Internet regulation.
Soderbergh is married to writer/journalist Jules Asner, whom he often credits for influencing his female characters. Soderbergh claims he no longer reads reviews of his movies. "After Traffic I just stopped completely", says the director. "After winning the LA and New York film critics awards, I really felt like, this can only get worse". Steven has a daughter with his first wife, Betsy Brantley. He also has a daughter, from an out of wedlock relationship.
On his own filmsEdit
- Sex, Lies, and Videotape, with filmmaker Neil LaBute
- Out of Sight, with screenwriter Scott Frank
- The Limey, with screenwriter Lem Dobbs
- Traffic, with screenwriter Stephen Gaghan
- Ocean's Eleven, with screenwriter Ted Griffin
- Full Frontal, with screenwriter Coleman Hough
- Solaris, with producer James Cameron
- Ocean's Twelve, with screenwriter George Nolfi (Blu-ray only)
- Bubble, with filmmaker Mark Romanek
- Ocean's Thirteen, with screenwriters Brian Koppelman and David Levien (Blu-ray only)
- The Girlfriend Experience, with actress Sasha Grey
- The Informant!, with screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (Blu-ray only)
On other filmsEdit
- Apartment Zero, with screenwriter/producer David Keopp
- Billy Budd, with actor Terence Stamp
- Catch-22, with director Mike Nichols
- Clean, Shaven, with director Lodge Kerrigan
- The Graduate, with director Mike Nichols
- Point Blank, with director John Boorman
- Seabiscuit, with director Gary Ross
- The Third Man, with screenwriter Tony Gilroy
- Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, with director Mike Nichols
- The Yards, with director James Gray
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Steven Soderbergh|
- Steven Soderbergh at the Internet Movie Database
- Steven Soderbergh Bibliography (via UC Berkeley)
- Steven Soderbergh: Interviews
- Everhip interview with Steven Soderbergh about making The Girlfriend Experience
- NPR: Bubble (01/2006)
- Wired interview (12/2005)
- Guardian interview (02/2003)
- French New Wave Influences in Steven Soderbergh (05/2003)
- Steven Soderbergh on The Girlfriend Experience (April 30, 2009)
- 'Che': Soderbergh's Own Revolution? by Lisa Collins, New York Post, October 31, 2008
- "Soderbergh Takes A Revolutionary Approach to 'Che'" by Mark Olsen, LA Times, October 31, 2008
- Steven Soderbergh interview by Scott Tobias, The Onion A.V. Club, January 5, 2009
- Steven Soderbergh Wants a Revolution interview by Foster Kamer, Black Books, December 29, 2008
- The Rumpus Long Interview with Steven Soderbergh by Scott Hitchins, The Rumpus, January 19, 2009
- Steven Soderbergh: "I can see the end of my career" by Henry Barnes, Guardian, July 14, 2009
- Literature on Steven Soderbergh