While he didn’t say it as succinctly in our interview with him this weekend, though director Steven Soderbergh is retiring from filmmaking for the time being, that doesn’t mean he’s retiring, period. The filmmaker told The Playlist while his second-to-last movie, “Side Effects,” is due in theaters next week (his final one with Matt Damon and Michael Douglas arrives on HBO in the spring), he also added that directing plays or TV is still an option.
Or as he told Vulture in a perfect soundbite, “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.” And Soderbergh isn’t kidding either. The “Ocean’s Eleven” filmmaker told us he has two stage plays in the works and one is already booked. The first is a play by “Side Effects” and “Contagion” screenwriter Scott Z. Burns that is scheduled to run in the fall. The second is a planned stage version of “Cleo,” his would-be 3D musical starring Catherine Zeta-Jones.
And the filmmaker is no stranger to the medium. In 2009, he directed a play titled “Tot-Mom” for the Sydney Theatre Company in Sydney, Australia. Although he wouldn’t reveal too much about Burns’ stageplay, but he did give some clues about its tone. “I can’t say a lot, other than, it’s really good,” he laughed. “I’ve been aware of it — he’s been working on it for a while and then out of the blue floated the idea of me doing it a couple of months ago and I jumped at it.”
“It’s a really fascinating piece and what I like about is it fits what works for me which is, it’s not a normal play,” he explained. “It’s what Austin Powers woulda call ‘a happening,’ you know what I mean? It’s not a straight play and that allows me to do things directorially that draws upon the skill set that I have as opposed to drawing on one that I don’t have. That’s going to be the rule of thumb for me doing theater. It’s going to have to be original pieces that play to the fact that I come out of the movies and am not trained as a theater director.” [editor’s note: our guess is it would be this play]
Originally, the project “Cleo” was supposed to be a 3D movie starring Zeta-Jones as Cleopatra, with Hugh Jackman and Ray Winstone also in starring roles. The director told us the plan for the stage play is to keep it much like the original movie production, still starring Zeta-Jones, still featuring the music of Guided By Voices and using the same script writtten by GBV member/writer Jim Greer. “I’m going to do Cleopatra onstage next year. We’re going to workshop it next year and see if it’s as fun as we think it is,” he said. “[The music] and all of it is done. We just need to put it on its feet and see if it works. It almost happened [on screen]. We had a little window where it needed to all line up and it didn’t. As it turns out that could be a good thing because I think it will be a great play. It’s [Ken Russell‘s] ‘Tommy.’ That’s the vibe of it.”
Lastly, Soderbergh is pulling a bit of a George Lucas soon and is overhauling and redoing his 1991 film, “Kafka,” for its eventual, long-overdue DVD release. The do-over sounds like it’s going to be so different, it’s likely to be akin to one more Soderbergh film in the near future.
“Well, I’m remaking—it’s been a long process—but I’m overhauling ‘Kafka’ completely,” he told Vulture. “It’s funny—wrapping a movie 22 years later! But the rights had reverted back to me and Paul Rassam, an executive producer, and he said, ‘I know you were never really happy with it. Do you want to go back in and play around?’ We shot some inserts while we were doing ‘Side Effects.’ I’m also dubbing the whole thing into German so the accent issue goes away. And Lem [Dobbs] and I have been working on recalibrating some of the dialogue and the storytelling. So it’s a completely different movie. The idea is to put them both out on disc. But for the most part, I’m a believer in your first impulse being the right one. And I certainly think that most of the seventies directors who have gone back in and tinkered with their movies have made them worse.”
That’s a pretty great unexpected treat for Soderbergh fans. More from our lengthy conversation with the filmmaker soon.”Side Effects” opens in theaters on February 8th.