In the decade since, Soderbergh hasn't had a hitnot
that it's really bothered him. He's continued to
work steadily, producing such well-reviewed art-house
fare as King of the Hill, Schizopolis, and Gray's
Anatomy, and carving a niche as an intelligent filmmaker
who isn't buttressed to one particular style.
Out of Sight, his first big-studio film, Soderbergh
looks to once again claim a large audience. Perhaps
the most faithful adaptation of an Elmore Leonard
novel to date, capturing more of Leonard's funky,
hard-edged sensibility than either Get Shorty
or Jackie Brown, the film bears Soderbergh's stylish
imprint while brimming with commercial appeal.
George Clooney exudes a devilish charmand
some splendid pecsas career bank robber
Jack Foley in the tale of a prison break gone
awry. Along the way, there are plenty of down-and-dirty
dealings with psycho killers and stoned robbers,
but it's Foley's encounters with the law, in the
person of Jennifer Lopez's federal marshal Karen
Sisco, that give Out of Sight its sizzle.
built and sporting black wide-frame glasses, a
checkered sport jacket, a green T-shirt, and faded
jeans, Soderbergh looks every bit the East Coast
auteur he isand maybe just a little out
of his element during an interview at a posh Beverly
Hills hotel. But his dry wit and candor suggest
that he's hardly uncomfortable, despite the fact
that there's a lot of money riding on his latest
creation. He's proven he can take care of himselfregardless
of how big his checks are, and no matter who's
It's been 10 years since
you slept on a couch and made sex, lies, and videotape.
Looking back, what do you think of what's happened
in the intervening decade?
I have to say I feel pretty fortunate. It's probably
easier to get a first film made now, but it's
harder to get it released and seen by people.
It's very cutthroat now in the independent sector,
as cutthroat as it's always been in the studio
sector. I look back and think we were really lucky,
in terms of timing and where the industry is.
I don't think sex, lies, and videotape would generate
that kind of excitement in today's market. Young
filmmakers have a lot of heat today, to meet expectations,
both creatively and financially. We'll see where
this next wave will go.
As I recall, Robert
Redford offered to help you out after sex, lies
took Sundance by storm. Did that ever happen?
was initially involved with King of the Hill [Soderbergh's
third film] and didn't have much input, and later
took his name off the movie. I didn't have much
interaction with him. Later on, I was set to [direct]
Quiz Show, and one day I was [set to direct] it
and the next day he was doing it. We didn'tand
don'thave a relationship.
you bitter about that?
it's just a Hollywood thing. It happens. For all
I know, I'm on a project somebody else got pushed
made some good films, but none of them have had
the impact sex, lies did.
just glad I had one that didand that it
was the first one. It brought me a lot of opportunities
and enabled me to keep coasting. If sex, lies
hadn't taken off, I don't know where I would be.
me, I wanted to keep working and not generate
a film every three or four years. I've made seven
films in nine years. That seems about right. I
don't think it was necessary to write everything
I did; I was ready to go direct someone else's
got an extremely low profile as a director. Is
that by choice, or by your choice of subject matter?
probably. Early on I made a conscious decision
not to involve myself in any publicity that wasn't
tied to a film. Nobody goes to see [Out of Sight]
because of me; they're going because of George
Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. The more you put yourself
in front of the public, the more you risk them
hating you. It's inevitable: It can't move in
one direction forever. As a filmmaker, [publicity]
doesn't make any sense. The relative anonymity
I have is great. I never get recognized. The people
in the film business know me by name, and that's
about money? If you're famous, don't you get more
have a low overhead. I can afford to not do stuff
or do stuff for little money. You do stuff because
you want to do them rather than doing shit because,
"I have big bills to pay." That flexibility
is very important to me.
When people say, "You're selling out to a
studio." I say, "Selling out is doing
something you don't want to do as an artist."
This movie, that's not the case. I would have
done it if it cost $4.9 million instead of $49
million. George was joking when he said, "I
get to say I'm working with Steven Soderbergh,
and everybody's going to say you're trolling for
a studio hit." In fact, this was the perfect
thing for me to do, coming out of two low-budget
movies. Gray's Anatomy was $350,000. Schizopolis
was about $300,000.
you have to make any major adjustments to work
for a studio on a big budget?
system is no different. You make a movie for an
independent, it's all the same issues. Somebody
is still paying for this, and you have to account
for this. Maybe they dress more expensively at
I didn't have final cut on sex, lies; it was financed
by the home video division of Columbia Pictures.
That movie is the way it is because the head of
that division was a good guy. That whole experience
could have turned out very differently. Casey
Silver [at Universal] is a good guy too. They
know I'm responsible and not a flake. They let
me do my job.
the studios won't let you do your job if you don't
have a hit every now and then. None of your films
since sex, lies has made a lot of money. Do you
feel any pressure?
made five bombs in a row [Kafka, King of the Hill,
The Underneath, Gray's Anatomy, and Schizopolis],
but they were not expensive movies or films that
were anticipated to be hits. People still thought,
"He's good at what he does; he just hasn't
had one that's come across to an audience."
I don't think I got beaten up the way I might
get beaten up if Out of Sight tanks. I don't know.
Whatever happens, I feel confident that if there
was nobody around to give me a job, I could scare
up a million bucks to go off and write and make
a movie. Some people don't have that option.
You've said that Out
of Sight is the movie that's going to do for Clooney
what Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid did for
Robert Redford. What do you mean by that exactly?
Redford before Butch Cassidy was an actor people
thought well of and thought should be a movie
star and yet he wasn't somehow. It took seeing
him in a role that showed you what he could do.
It's materialit's all about material. If
there are talented actors out there who haven't
made it yet, it's just that they're not getting
access to good material. George hasn't been big
just because of the parts. [Batman and Robin and
The Peacemaker] are not showcases for an actor.
I felt he really needed one. He was very good
in One Fine Day, but the movie that made me think
he had it was From Dusk Till Dawnhe was
very compelling in that. Jack Foley for any actor
is a great role, but this is his Butch Cassidy.
Sandra Bullock once mentioned to play Karen Sisco,
the role that went to Jennifer Lopez?
was one of the people we were all talking about.
What happened was I spent some time with [Clooney
and Bullock]and they actually did have a
great chemistry. But it was for the wrong movie.
They really should do a movie together, but it
was not Elmore Leonard energy. George and Jennifer
in a room, that's the energy this movie needs.
did you find that out?
had this noisy leather couch in his study, and
we did the test there. George and Jennifer are
scrunched up, and I had the video camera there,
and I did it in such a way I could cut it together.
Jennifer is no shrinking violet, and she came
in and nailed it. You could feel it in the room.
We had a lot of actresses come in and audition
on the couch. We had all the good ones. But here's
the funny thing: Jennifer was great, but what
convinced me was that George was better with Jennifer
than with anybody else. He was different, and
that's what I needed.
about Out of Sight's big love scene? From the
moment they share a very tight space in a getaway
car's trunk, there is this palpable sexual tension
between them, and a romantic attraction. Finally,
many scenes later, we see them ready to make the
leap into bed. Jennifer said that just as you
were to film that scene, you decided to do something
completely different than what was scripted.
was a case of, "We've got to tear this down
and build it back up again. This feels like stuff
I've seen in other movies. We've got to make it
different." So I ripped off [Nicolas Roeg's
1972 film] Don't Look Now, which has this notorious
crosscutting sequence of Donald Sutherland and
Julie Christie making love and getting dressed
to go out the next day. What I loved, and what
I wanted to create in our movie was the intimacy
of that, the juxtaposition of these two contrasting
things. It implied a connection that you could
never get by just writing, "First they make
love, and then they get dressed." We had
to mix it up and have you feel like you were more
in their heads. But it was hard to explain to
people when we were shooting it. [Smiles.] They
would just stare at me.
in actual prisonsLouisiana's Angola State
Penitentiary and California's Mira Loma Detention
Centermust have been pretty interesting.
What did you discover about having this huge star
playing basketball with the actual inmate populationand
in prison was great. He made that situation easier
on all of us by being gracious and patient and
staying on the yard all day. He never went into
his trailer, and that sent a message to everybody.
If George had gone into his trailer, it would
have pissed off everybody. It would have confirmed
everyone's ideas about how this process works.
Instead, it sent a message that we were there
to do some work. He hung out and signed scores
of autographs and took picturesand believe
me, everybody wanted one. For about a week he
was the mayor of Angola.
they call him Batman?
guys did call him Batman. The hardest for George
was where he had to be bad playing basketball,
where they were screaming, "What's wrong,
Batman? Can't fly to the top of the hoop?"
It tortured him, and I was shooting miles of footage
of him getting the shit kicked out of him.
understand you plan to work with Clooney again.
trying. We're not sure. We just want to work on
something elseeither an out-and-out comedy
or a thriller, a hard-edged thriller that's more
like a policier.
darker material like the execution of a crack
dealer, Out of Sight is primarily a balance of
action, humor, and romance. You very nicely cut
away from anything explicit to sustain this lighthearted
reflects my aesthetic. In the book, there's a
detailed, terrifying scene where this mayhem occurs.
I thought, "I don't want to see it; I don't
want to shoot it." Shooting violence to me
is not interesting.
unlike Get Shorty and Jackie Brown, which took
the action elsewhere, you go back to Detroit.
That isn't just Elmore Leonard's hometown, but
the site of much of the action in many of his
had more fun in Detroit than Miami. I'm not a
beach person; I don't like to expose myself. Not
a lot there for me. I like cold weather, and I
like shooting at nightand we were shooting
a lot at night. And the people were nice.
©1999 ABC News Internet Ventures. All rights
reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in any form.
Please click here for legal restrictions and terms
of use applicable to this site. Use of this site