Steven Soderbergh recently sat down with Vulture for a lengthy interview to discuss his impending retirement from filmmaking, being a responsible director, the one note of direction he gave to Matthew McConaughey for “Magic Mike,” the two films he’s made that he’s satisfied with, and much more. Highlights below.
The full interview is here.
On retiring from filmmaking:
Just to be clear, I won’t be directing “cinema,” for lack of a better word. But I still plan to direct — theater stuff, and I’d do a TV series if something great were to come along… These things — I can feel them coming on. I can feel it when I need to slough off one skin and grow another. So that’s when I started thinking, “All right, when I turn 50, I’d like to be done.” I knew that in order to stop, I couldn’t keep it a secret — so many things are coming at you when you’re making films that you need to have a reason to be saying no all the time.
On the importance as a director to be a decent person:
On the few occasions where I’ve talked to film students, one of the things I stress, in addition to learning your craft, is how you behave as a person. For the most part, our lives are about telling stories. So I ask them, “What are the stories you want people to tell about you?” Because at a certain point, your ability to get a job could turn on the stories people tell about you. The reason [then–Universal Pictures chief] Casey Silver put me up for [1998’s] “Out of Sight” after I’d had five flops in a row was because he liked me personally. He also knew I was a responsible filmmaker, and if I got that job, the next time he’d see me was when we screened the movie. If I’m an asshole, then I don’t get that job. Character counts.
On the one direction he gave Matthew McConaughey in “Magic Mike”:
Matthew understood the part so well and had such good ideas that I had no desire to box him in. So I just said yes to everything, which turned out to be the right way to go. I think the only note I gave him, when I first pitched him the part on the phone, was that his character believed in UFOs. It wasn’t a way of diminishing the character. It was actually the opposite. My mom was a parapsychologist, so I grew up around that stuff.
His two films he’s satisfied with:
“Out of Sight.” It’s less flawed than the others. Or “The Informant!” As I look at those two, I feel like I don’t know what else I would do.