Did he try to dissuade you from leaving the business or encourage you to move to TV? I know you’re a big fan of “House of Cards” and have seen a few episodes.
I am. No. I’ve known him well enough and long enough that he’s been aware of this long term plan of mine for a long time -- ever since I’ve started thinking about it. I’m certainly intrigued by this model. We had a “Side Effects” screening at Lincoln Center last night. “House of Cards” had a premiere at Lincoln Center so we left our Q&A and went over to the “House of Cards” party and I talked to the two people writing Netflix about how this works and what they have in mind. It’s a pretty interesting thing. As they were pointing out, you don’t even have to think of this in terms of 12 one-hour episodes. You can have one episode that’s 30 minutes and one that’s 70. There are no rules. So that got me thinking, oh, I don’t have to put it in a box. It can take any form that you want and that’s what they’re interested in. Like HBO, the interesting thing about the subscription model is it’s about buzz. It’s about drawing people to you because you’ve got cool shit. You’ve got this guaranteed revenue stream. It certainly doesn’t hurt.
I was telling David, you’re so fucking lucky, man. The last three days all of the stories have been about how the last quarter for Netflix just blew up. They’re in the news and now this thing’s dropping. It’s really good timing for everybody. So I’m keeping an eye on that. I’ll be curious to hear whether or not their site crashes tomorrow. Which it might. I think David’s right. Binging is kind of the new black. It’s how people want to watch their shows.
It’s how I watch my shows.
They DVR the whole season, wait, and watch the whole thing in a week. I like the idea of that. It’s like reading a book.
How do you watch your TV?
A little of both. I have some destination stuff and then I’ll record a few things and sort of hold onto them. But the good news is I watch a lot of true crime, which is my wife’s influence. And so there’s tons of that. "Dateline"... I watch a lot of ID TV because they’ve got all the "Dateline"s. I like true crime a lot.
“Behind the Candelabra” initially started as a film project, before moving over to HBO. Did you feel any freer working for HBO than you had with film studios?
I don’t know if anybody else would’ve necessarily been intrusive given the scale of the movie and the quality of the script and Michael [Douglas] and Matt [Damon], but...
You couldn’t find funding.
No, and I was gonna say what was refreshing about it was the complete lack of anxiety about what it was. That was the real difference. I wasn’t dealing with people who were afraid to embrace what it needed to be. Everything about it that was an issue with the film people that we talked to was a plus to them. That was the biggest difference. It was nice that they let us do what we were going to do, but they made it clear that they weren’t interested in getting in the way. They were around a lot, and I encouraged them to be around. I kept them very involved in every sort of iteration of my thinking and the film’s condition. It was a nice way to go out.
What were the issues? Was it solely the gay content?
That’s what I took away. Was that “we don’t know how to sell this. It’s just too gay.”
How do you react to that? That to me just seems so absurd given the success of movies like “Brokeback,” and “Magic Mike” obviously pandered hugely...
Yeah, I don’t know. I just said, really? It doesn’t seem like a difficult sell at all to me. First of all, you’re going to be able to cut the best trailer of all time. Literally, it’s going to be the best trailer of all time. This thing is just such eye candy and it’s funny. It’s a fun ride, and the two of them are great. I was baffled by the whole thing. But you end up where you’re supposed to end up. If that’s really how they felt then you can make an argument that more people will see it through HBO than would’ve seen it theatrically. Maybe that’s what they were worried about.
In the TV realm, what would it take to entice you to come on as a showrunner or exec producer?
I don’t know. It would have to be something that I felt that I could bring something specific and positive to it, you know? That it could really benefit from my involvement as opposed to a lot of other people's. I still have this John Barthes novel that I’ve adapted into 12 one-hour episodes. If I can figure out how I want to do that, what the sort of gimmick is, that could be something that I end up mounting. I have that in my back pocket. But I don’t wanna...
Here’s the problem, I get calls a lot now with “Just do this pilot... when it goes you make all this money!” There’s an issue there for me for two reasons. One is, I don’t wanna just do the pilot and have my name on it, and have my name on as an executive producer and then have nothing to do with it. If my name’s on it I need to be involved, and the problem is I don’t want to be involved. That’s what I walked away from. There’s kind a catch-22 there.
The other thing is, I’m personally not sure about how I feel about taking a pilot job away from someone who makes a living in TV. I don’t need that on my resume. And there are other people who could, who this is what they do, they direct TV. That makes me a little anxious that I’m just stealing a job from a lifer. But if it was something I originated, if it was something I came up with, that wouldn’t exist if I didn’t exist, that’s different. I’m just talking about going head to head with somebody on an open assignment. I just feel like that’s not cool.
Check back tomorrow for part 2 where Soderbergh discusses his involvement with "The Canyons," what genre he wish he tackled and his move to Broadway.