INT: Steven Soderbergh
Award winner Steven Soderbergh has become one of the most powerful
and eminent directors in
in the ruins of
Soderbergh, who is an acclaimed director of such famous films as OCEAN'S 11, TRAFFIC, ERIN BROCKOVICH and OUT OF SIGHT, sat down last week, to talk about his latest creation, THE GOOD GERMAN. See what the brilliant director had to say.
Did Paul [Attanasio, the screenwriter] know that you were going to do this movie in black and white?
That came later. There
were a couple of different ways to go.
I think the assumption initially was that it would be normal.
Color, we'll go to
Did you decide to leave modern aspects like language, sex scenes out because they couldn't be done in that era?
If you're just literally imitating that aesthetic in every particular including the way people speak and the fact that those filmmakers were working under the Hays code, then to me it really is just a pastiche, and you're not pushing the ball forward or sideways or anywhere, you're just literally making a copy of something. So again, like for instance Far From Heaven or like The Last Picture Show, we thought the most interesting version of the movie is, this aesthetic from sixty years ago with...... when we say it's modern, people were saying f*ck in 1945 and they were feeling each other up and there were moral issues that were difficult and ugly.
The problem is again; people making movies in this country were censored. So that combined with a desire to have attention between those two things, attention between this aesthetic that's very glamorous, very romantic inherently and an approach to narrative and characters, that is the antithesis of that which is interesting to me. I wanted that battle to be played out through the song because I thought that would be interesting, that would be interesting to watch. It would not be a passive experience to watch a movie in which that battle's taking place.
Honestly, until we get into these situations, it's not something I've ever articulated to anybody involved in the movie or would have. That's the result of thousands of hours of work and conversations about "how do you want it, or how do we want to do it or how should people talk." And you have to remember, our sense of how people behaved sixty years ago is largely shaped by the movies that were made sixty years ago.
Can you talk about the archival material and how tricky it was in using it?
got some of it from here, we got some of it from
Can you talk about your collaboration with George [Clooney]? Are there things that you're still learning about him and what did you learn from him in this particular film?
I want to say he's getting better and better but it makes it seem like he wasn't good when we started and that's obviously not the case. I just think he's getting better and better. I always thought he was...I was one of the people when I saw him on ER and went, that guy is a movie star. That was just my gut reaction when I saw him on that show, like that guy is a movie star. And you know when Out Of Sight came up, and that was a movie I had to pursue, part of it was my belief that this guy's ready to pop and I felt like Out Of Sight was, you know I really wanted to do it and I really wanted to do it with him.
I just felt like I want to get on this train. And so like I said I just think he's getting (better).... and you look at the choices he's made since Out Of Sight, it's a pretty incredible range of material to go from Out Of Site, Three Kings, O Brother, to Solaris, to Syriana, that's a pretty impressive array of performances you know. And I think people... he gets this rap like you know "George is always George," but I don't think that's true at all.
Do you feel that you have to convince him to do low budget movies like this or is he just as excited to go into them because of your relationship?
Oh no, no. He does that anyway. When he does a movie for the Coen brothers or when he did Three Kings or doing movies like Syriana, he's not making a lot. He doesn't care about that. I mean I'm sure he feels very pragmatic about it. He's like, I have money, what I want is a series of titles on the shelf of movies that I made that I can look back on and feel good about.
What does it take to get you to say yes to a project?
It starts with the story. It starts with the content. Thats how this started. I just thought, This is a good story, an interesting story, one I really hadnt seen before. (Its) the exoneration of Nazi scientists by the Americans. This was not something Id really read about and so I was really interested. By the way, theres a great, great documentary that PBS did a year ago, a little over a year ago. We watched it a year and a half ago, about this subject. I think its called In Search of Nazi Scientists. Anyway, if you can find it, and Im sure its available, its great. So thats how this started.
In essence, this is a story about torturers getting away with it, about Americans bringing scientists who did evil elsewhere onto American shores
just think there were no good options here. There was no good
choice. There really wasnt. This is what happens in a post-war
environment. I think the Americans in this case didnt have a
choice. I suppose you could have gone to the American public and
said, Hey, look, we want to bring these people over to build
these rockets because if we dont theyre going to go to
How does the collaboration between you and George work?
We are alike in ways that are helpful to getting work done and were not alike in ways that are helpful to making the work better. So its a good mix. We both have a similar attitude about how you do your work and we both like to work a lot. Creatively, were very much in sync and the ways were not perfectly in sync are helpful; you know what I mean? Hes less pretentious.
Going back to how you choose projects is there something thematically; stylistically you keep going back to that were not seeing?
Well, I try not to look back. Thats ultimately I dont know that Id ever think about it. Its certainly something I wouldnt think about until I stopped because I think this is not an intellectual medium. There are a couple of examples and I wont state them, but I think for the most part intellectuals dont make very good movies. Its an emotional medium and I think you can really outsmart yourself. So, analysis of that kind is just something I think can be dangerous. Its a business in which a great number of people have managed to move bag and baggage into the third person. You have to watch out for that. Part of that process is thinking about, Well, what is my career like and how do people think about me? Thats just something I dont want to get into.
Hows Oceans 13 going?
Horribly (sarcastically) .
Youve been quoted as saying its a return to the first film, but youre not known for stepping back. So how do you pull off both: return to the first, but not repeat yourself?
Theyre very risky. Im really happy with it. It was sad, near the end of it, to basically go, this is the last time Im going to see these people in a room. I really like them all and they all like each other, and there was a very strong sense of We were really lucky that these movies came about and that we got to do them and this is it. At the end of it there was a real sense of passage and wondering, for me, Wow, I wonder if Ill ever find another commercial movie to make. But also, just these people; I wont be hanging out with those people anymore.
Why two Che Guevara projects (The Argentine and Guerrilla) back to back?
Well, Kill Bill. Those were two movies. Whats the quickest thing I can say? I think the reason for it being two films will be apparent to anyone who sees them. I think the biggest issue is going to be how far apart to put them out. I would like them to go out a week apart. That specific thing hasnt been done yet. The Clint Eastwood movie just got moved up, but I dont know that anybody has ever made two movies that were released a week apart. I think that would be really cool, but well see.
Are you incorporating The Motorcycle Diaries stuff or is all that after?
Oceans 13 doesnt have to be the last one
Yeah, it does.
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