After partnering with Netflix for two 2019 movies and Amazon for “Logan Lucky” before that, Steven Soderbergh has returned to HBO. WarnerMedia has announced a three-year overall deal with the filmmaker to develop original content for HBO and HBO Max, which is exclusive to all forms of television and secures first-look rights to his feature films.
Soderbergh’s past collaborations with HBO include “Behind the Candelabra” and “Mosaic,” as well as “The Knick” for sister company Cinemax. He’s been making films with Warner Bros., a division of WarnerMedia, since 2001 (“Ocean’s Eleven”), and he’s currently working on the previously announced HBO Max film, “Let Them All Talk” starring Meryl Streep. Slated for 2020, the movie tells the story of a celebrated author (Streep) who takes a journey with some old friends to have some fun and heal old wounds.
“This arrangement grew out of talks Michael Sugar and I were having with Sarah Aubrey during the negotiations for ‘Let Them All Talk,’ and there were four things tractor-beaming me toward this deal: One, I have a history with both HBO and Warner Bros.; two, my definition of a good product, a good process, and a good working culture is shared by the WarnerMedia family; three, the wide range of potential outlets aligns with my range of interests, and four: I get to witness and participate in the building of something new at a very large scale. Oh, and there is a financial aspect, so that’s probably five,” Soderbergh said in a statement.
Since returning from a short-lived retirement in 2016, Soderbergh worked with a number of different distributors, including emerging streaming titans like Amazon and Netflix. “Logan Lucky” was a notable attempt by the producer to privately market and distribute the film in theaters, after selling SVOD rights to Amazon. Despite strong reviews, the 2016 heist comedy was met with a disappointing box office tally, as did his next theatrical release, “Unsane,” both of which were marketed and released through Bleecker Street Media.
Soderbergh then entrusted Netflix with releasing “High Flying Bird” and “The Laundromat,” both of which had festival premieres (at Slamdance and Venice, respectively) before hitting the streaming service. Both were largely ignored by awards bodies, though it’s unlikely that’s connected to their releases. Soderbergh was also an executive producer on the Netflix limited series “Godless,” which earned him his latest Emmy nomination and was very well-received overall.
With HBO, Soderbergh has earned seven Emmy nominations and two wins. Even after making movies for other studios, he remained close with Warner Bros. distribution chief Dan Fellman, who helped launch the “Ocean’s” trilogy and “Magic Mike.” (Fellman is now a consultant for the studio and a producer on both “Unsane” and “Logan Lucky.”)
“From ‘Behind the Candelabra,’ to ‘The Knick’ and ‘Mosaic,’ we know first-hand that Steven Soderbergh’s creative genius knows no bounds,” HBO Programming President Casey Bloys said in a statement. “An indefatigable innovator, we couldn’t be more excited to continue our relationship with Steven and provide a home for his future projects.”
“Steven is a groundbreaking filmmaker who not only tells unique, irresistible stories, but is also a master of so many genres,” Aubrey, head of original content at HBO Max, said in a statement. “In many ways, he is the anti-algorithm — constantly surprising, never predictable and his career is living proof that one gifted filmmaker can impact our culture again and again. I can’t wait for the projects that we’re working on together to premiere on HBO Max.”
Beyond his upcoming HBO Max film, Soderbergh is also producing the third “Bill & Ted” film. For more on Soderbergh’s current activity, check out his annual list of all the movies, TV shows, books, plays, and shorts he consumed in 2019, available via the creator’s website. Perhaps there’s a “Below Deck” adaptation in HBO Max’s future.