Leave it to Steven Soderbergh to reinvent the wheel once again when it comes to independent filmmaking. It turns out that his next project, the HBO Max comedy “Let Them All Talk,” was shot in just about two weeks and was largely improvised by its cast. The film stars Meryl Streep, Dianne Wiest, and Candice Bergen, who all play longtime friends who reconvene on an ocean liner for a reminiscent talkfest spiked with banter and regret. First details on the making of the film were detailed in an Entertainment Weekly conversation with the cast, who revealed some telling behind-the-scenes secrets.
“I told [Soderbergh] he was gonna ruin everything for every director, and every production designer, and everything else, because he made the movie for 25 cents — I know that’s what I was paid,” Streep said. “Then it was made in two weeks, and it was a free ride on the boat.”
Bergen also said, “I think [Soderbergh]’s the most fearless filmmaker, and his intellect is so piercing. He was doing the camerawork, so you sort of watched his brain right behind the camera, spinning like a top. It was really interesting. And short.”
Wiest also revealed the film was shot with “no equipment. The only equipment was sound equipment. Steven held the camera in a wheelchair and just rolled along. None of the lights, and the trucks, all that stuff that goes into making movies, there’s none of it. There was Steven and this new camera.”
The guerrilla filmmaking style on “Let Them All Talk” was reinforced by the lack of a script, with Soderbergh handing his ensemble basic outlines of scenarios to experiment with in terms of the dialogue.
“Improvised feel? Well, yeah, it does, because it is,” Streep said. “I mean, they would give us the outlines of a situation, and then we knew where we had to end up. But they didn’t tell us how to get there.”
The film is inspired by a short story from author Deborah Eisenberg, who also had a presence on the set and receives a screenwriting credit. “She was always there. She was there all the time, and she was so generous, and you could ask her anything,” Wiest said. “She would tell you what might come up next, and remind you, because we shot in sequence, which was another incredible gift that Steven gave.”
“One night, the next day I was supposed to be giving a lecture, and the auditorium was going to be filled with real people,” said Streep, who plays an acclaimed novelist accepting a prestigious award in the movie. “And there was no lecture in the script! I said, ‘Well, what is she gonna say about this author from another century?’ And so overnight, [Eisenberg] produced this enormous bunch of ideas, and a biography. It was a very rich kind of Bible from which to draw. But it was terrifying every night, because you just had to get ready and think [of], you know, what you’re gonna say.”
“Let Them All Talk” is set to launch on HBO Max in December. Soderbergh most recently served as executive producer on the Quibi series “Wireless” as well as “Bill and Ted Face the Music.” Soderbergh is meanwhile at work on another film for HBO Max and Warner Bros., “No Sudden Move,” starring Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, David Harbour, Jon Hamm, Ray Liotta, and more. He’s also working on new edits of several earlier films, as he revealed to IndieWire over the summer.