Steven Soderbergh is back, but it’s not with another indie drama, studio blockbuster or any number of his other efforts that fall right in between the two. The small screen is the filmmaker’s new home, and in August he strides confidently back behind the camera with "The Knick" (check out the first batch of posters here). It’s a chance to see the filmmaker stretch his storytelling muscles, and it’s an opportunity he loved taking on.
"You get to go narrow and deep. I had a great time on it. I was terrified going in. Because they basically said yes to a pilot script. We wanted a series commitment with the understanding… This is end of May, June, a year ago. We wanted a commitment and we had to start shooting in September," he told Esquire. "The good news was they said yes. The bad news was now we got to write nine hours in two and a half months and prep for a 10-hour period piece. We had to shoot nine pages a day and I was really scared. But it turned out to be a total blast."
"I thought 570 pages for 73 days… How would you do that? It turned out to be actually… fun. It really was fun. But the only way you can do that is if you have autonomy on the ground to solve problems moment to moment, the way you want to solve them," he continued. "Look, I was out. I read this thing last May, right before we were going to Cannes with ‘Behind the Candelabra.’ I read it and was like, ‘Shit.’ I was the first person to get it. I went, ‘Well, the second person who reads this is going to do this.’ "
The show, led by Clive Owen, is set in the early 1900s, tracking a doctor at the Knickerbocker Hospital during the age when science is becoming a more powerful force in the field of medicine. And while that sounds like perfect material for an HBO drama, Soderbergh wanted to ensure a bit of creative space and attentive promotional muscle, so he asked to be moved to a sister channel.
"We were literally on the ‘[Behind The] Candelabra’ tour and I had a great experience with it. I said to [HBO president of programming] Michael Lombardo, ‘This may sound a little weird, but I’d rather be the big kid at a really small school. How do you feel about doing this on Cinemax instead of HBO?’ For me personally, I’m going to get a lot more one-on-one," Soderbergh said. "He goes, ‘Actually, that’ll be great.’ "
And given the enthusiasm Soderbergh is already sharing, it’s not surprising he’s eager for more. When asked by the magazine about a second season, the director is just waiting for the official signal from the network. "That’s my plan. We’ll find out within the next couple of weeks," he said. "I know they’re happy. I know they like the show. I’m not privy to what money they have allocated. But I’ve made it clear. We know what we want to do, we’ve already worked on breaking out a second year. Everybody wants to do it."
"The Knick" makes the first cut on August 8th at 10 p.m.