Cheat Sheet: Steven Soderbergh
Steven Andrew Soderbergh
Date of Birth:
14th January 1963
Place of birth:
Atlanta, GA, USA
Directing, painting, being bald
Sex, Lies and Videotape, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, Che
What you probably already know:
Steven Soderbergh’s amazing. You definitely knew that, right? The man Roger Ebert called “the poster boy of the Sundance generation” has been responsible for some of the most critically and commercially successful Hollywood films of the past twenty years, starting with 1989’s Sex, Lies and Videotape (which made him, at 26, the youngest ever director to win the Palme d’Or) and continuing right up to the present day with 2011’s ensemble medical thriller Contagion – which is out in cinemas this very Friday. Although best known for massive hits like legal biopic Erin Brockovich and crime thriller Ocean’s Eleven, he’s racked up one of the most varied CVs in Hollywood.
Soderbergh’s legendary versatility, which is reflected in his refusal to brand his films with possessory credits, has seen him make huge Hollywood thrillers followed by tiny arthouse features, cast legions of stars and then utter unknowns and direct adaptations alongside original material, much of which he writes himself. He’s notorious for adopting actors (Matt Damon and George Clooney have made a combined total of 13 Steven Soderbergh films), is still the only director to have been nominated for the Best Director award at the Oscars AND the Golden Globes AND the Directors’ Guild of America Awards – in the same year, and for two different films. A one trick pony, Steven Soderbergh is not.
What you might not know:
In between his megahits, Steven Soderbergh has never shied away from complicated and potentially uncommercial prospects. His 1996 experimental comedy Schizopolis notably features him as director, writer, composer, cinematographer AND star, and his 2006 film Bubble – filmed with a cast of nonprofessional actors – was held up as an example of “the biggest threat to the viability of the cinema industry today” when it was released virtually simultaneously in theatres, on DVD and on cable. His four-hour biopic of Che Guevara left critics divided and speechless, whilst 2002’s Full Frontal, a film so metatextual that it could tell you what the back of its own head looked like, made Father Ebert comment that “Every once in a while, perhaps as an exercise in humility, Steven Soderbergh makes a truly inexplicable film…”
His occasional blips aside, Steven Soderbergh is still a spectacularly reliable director (and everything else; he’s just taken on the role of 2nd unit director on The Hunger Games to help out his mate Gary Ross). So it may surprise you to learn that in a year or two he’s quitting Hollywood for good. Now that Contagion‘s on the point of release, Soderbergh has just three films to go before he hits his self-imposed cut-off point and retires to focus on his painting. Those films are Magic Mike, which will star Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer) in a dramatised version of Tatum’s own past life as a stripper, a feature version of classic TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon. That’s a hell of a swansong.
Steven Soderbergh quote:
“I’m very comfortable with failure. I’m very comfortable being the guy who disappoints people.”
What to say at a dinner party:
“Over the next few years, Steven Soderbergh looks set to cap off a spectacular career with three more beautiful and challenging films. We shall not see his like again.”
What not to say at a dinner party:
“Is he just going to do loads of really intense oils of George and Matt, do you think?”
Please be shit at painting and come back to movies. Please.
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