Steven Soderbergh’s “retirement” has been the center of much debate for film fans over the past couple of years. The Oscar-winning director hasn’t made a feature film since 2013’s Hitchcockian psychological thriller “Side Effects,” though he has since been reborn as one of television’s boldest auteurs with TV films like “Behind the Candelabra” and the acclaimed Cinemax medical drama, “The Knick.”
In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Soderbergh makes it clear that his retirement is merely from the film industry, and that television has become the saving grace for auteur creators. Talking about his upcoming Starz series “The Girlfriend Experience,” an adaptation of his 2009 low-fi drama of the same name, Soderbergh explained, “We’re used to the writer-producer being the ultimate Oz figure on a show, but not here. Here it’s the directors’ vision. You feel it right away — in the choices with the writing and directing — the difference between this and regular television. No f—ing executive would [normally] ever let this pass. I am as proud of having my name on this as of anything I’ve done.”
“This is really auteur TV,” he continued about the series. “It’s like what I’m doing on ‘The Knick,’ what Cary Fukunaga did on ‘True Detective.’ One filmmaker doing the whole thing — there’s unification that comes with that [and you] can’t do it any other way. This is a real philosophical shift, and it’s making some people very nervous.”
It’s unclear who exactly the “some people” are that Soderbergh refers to, though he’s clearly relishing the authorial control he’s been given on the small screen. For the director, that control no longer exists in Hollywood, and for that reason he’ll never return to the place where he became a true pioneer.
“Just from my very personal, subjective point of view, I don’t have an interest in making another theatrical film unless my attitude changes or the business changes,” he said. “There are a series of things that have contributed to it — I think the audiences have a played a role, the studios have a role in it — but film is increasingly fear based in its decision-making, and that’s not a good base to be creative.”
Visit The Hollywood Reporter for the director’s complete interview. “The Knick” Season 2 premieres on Cinemax on October 16.