Look, he said he was retiring from filmmaking. Filmmaking. Deadline reports that Steven Soderbergh, whose last movie before his indefinite hiatus from the medium “Behind the Candelabra” airs on HBO this Sunday, has now signed on to direct and produce “The Knick,” a Cinemax series that will star Clive Owen. Apparently cable TV suits him just fine — Cinemax, which is owned by HBO, will be giving a 10-episode season commitment to the period drama, which is set in downtown New York in 1900.
Soderbergh, who recently launched his own t-shirt vending website, is reportedly directing all of the episodes — the series will be set at the Knickerbocker Hospital, where the staff conducts groundbreaking measures to push medicine forward at a time of high mortality. Jack Amiel and Michael Begler (both of “Raising Helen”) are writing the series and executive producing alongside Owen, Soderbergh, Anonymous Content’s Michael Sugar and Gregory Jacobs.
Soderbergh has been teasing the idea of a jump to TV ever since talk of his “retirement” began — in an interview in February, he told Indiewire about how intrigued he was by HBO’s de-emphasizing immediate numbers and by the possibilities of Netflix’s “House of Cards,” saying that to get involved in a series would take the project being “something that I felt that I could bring something specific and positive to it… That it could really benefit from my involvement as opposed to a lot of other people’s.”
Soderbergh’s no stranger to the small screen or to premium cable series — he executive produced HBO’s 2005 improvised Hollywood dramedy “Unscripted” and created, executive produced and directed every episode of the 2003 political series “K Street,” which was also largely improvised and ran on HBO. (Owen recently starred in an HBO original film, Philip Kaufman’s “Hemingway & Gellhorn.”) Soderbergh also told Indiewire that he’s adapted a John Barthes novel into 12 one-hour episodes, and that “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.”
Having a series with Soderbergh and Owen is certainly a coup for Cinemax, which has been expanding its original programming offerings, finding success with the pulpy Alan Ball-produced “Banshee,” which finished its first season earlier this year and has been renewed for a second.