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Overview for Steven Soderbergh
Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh


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Also Known As: Died:
Born: January 14, 1963 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Atlanta, Georgia, USA Profession: Director ...


Soderbergh became only the second person in the history of the Directors Guild of America Awards to be nominated for more than one film in the same year when he was tapped for a pair of 2000 releases, "Erin Brockovich" and "Traffic". The first man so honored was Francis Ford Coppola in 1974 when he was nominated for "The Conversation" and "The Godfather, Part II" (for which he won the prize).

On the similarities between Soderbergh and the lead character of Graham in "sex, lies and videotape", actor James Spader told writer Terri Minski: "We never talked about it. But there would be days when I'd get out of wardrobe and come to the set, and we'd be wearing the same thing." --From Rolling Stone, May 18, 1989.

"There's a certain way I like to work. It goes -- this is the script, this is the budget, this is the schedule. Assuming these things stay as they are, I want to be left alone." --Steven Soderbergh quoted in "The Road Less Traveled" by David Gritten in the Los Angeles Times Calendar, November 25, 1990.

When asked what it was like directing and acting opposite his ex-wife in "Schizopolis": "I highly recommend it. I think everybody must have thought I was insane while we were making the movie. But, when you think, 'It's just life. Why shy away from it?' In terms of of my work, I'm always looking for the stupid thing to do, the thing that makes you think, 'Why would anyone put themselves through that?' It was very therapeutic. It really was like standing on the bow of a ship in a bad storm. It required an enormous amount of equilibrium." --Steven Soderbergh to the Village Voice, April 1, 1997.

"People assume they know what it means for a director to be true to himself, which they don't. America has no shortage of auteurs. What we have is a shortage of films being made by smart filmmakers that open in 4,000 theaters. I don't understand why a filmmaker should be penalized for working in the mainstream. Why not give the big money to the most interesting filmmakers instead of putting them in quarantine, where, in order for them to do something interesting, they have to do it for a million bucks?" --Soderbergh quoted in The New York Times, June 21, 1998.

In your book, "Getting Away With It," you have some pretty tough words for movie critics, calling them "parasitic," questioning their legitimacy and so on. Have the recent awards from the New York Film Critics Circle changed those opinions?

No. I think what I was referring to at that point was whether or not, in the current structure of how movies are made and sold, they have the kind of role that they used to have. There was a time when I think critics had a more significant and integral role in what was happening with movies. But the business has changed so much that you could argue that's not true anymore. When you can find somebody somewhere to call every film a masterpiece, then it's gotten out of hand.

Also, the number of serious critics who are allowed and/or encouraged to write at length and seriously about movies is diminished, which is sad. I didn't always agree with Pauline Kael, but I sure loved reading her stuff because she was incredibly bright and knew a lot about a lot of things, not just movies. There aren't many like that anymore.

Yet, by strict definition, critics are parasitic in the sense that they can't exist without the artist. The artist has to create something that is then commented on. It's great when a group of critics gets together and gives you an award like that. But the bottom line is, it doesn't make me any better at my job, which is all I think about when I get up in the morning. You have to give such awards their proper weight. --From Stephen Lemons' interview with Soderbergh on (December 20, 2000)

"I try to strike a balance between design and life." --Steven Soderbergh explaining his directorial style to Aleksandrs Rozens of Reuters, December 28, 2000.

On his direction of actors, Soderbergh told Stephen Rebello of Movieline (December 2000/January 2001): "What I always want to do is find the best version of them. It's not that I want to glamorize them, it's just that I'm pretty good at minimizing whatever weaknesses they have. My gut instinct about that is pretty good, from how to pitch a performance tonally to how to frame, light and cut them. That's my job.

. . . A lot of directors don't like actors. They don't want to talk to them, don't know how to talk to them. Some directors who work that way make good films. But I'm very impressed by what actors do. You cannot describe the kind of exposure that standing in front of a camera with a crew around means. Ther's no control and the rejection is very personal. I'm very sympathetic toward actors because I have a sense of what that's like. Naked doesn't begin to describe it. I have enormous respect for people who want to do it, and for people who do it well. It's a career I wouldn't wish on a lot of people -- the worst."

Asked by Anthony Kaufman of (January 3, 2001) about serving as his own director of photography on "Traffic", Soderbergh replied: "It is [relentless]. But it's so satisfying. Because you're getting what you want all day. I certainly underestimated the restorative value of being able to leave the set for 5 minutes, which you cannot do when you are your own cinematographer. Literally. I couldn't go to the bathroom until lunchtime. Because I had to sit there and make sure things we're going. Or we were shooting. Most of our day was spent shooting. The lion's share of the film is shot with available light, so we showed up early, ready to shoot. But in this case, it felt so organic that it didn't really feel like I was doing another job. It felt very much like when I was making my short films. It was a very stripped down crew. It was really just: Let's show up and shoot."

"I'm no longer a control freak. The implementation of whatever aesthetic I choose for each film is as considered and systematic as it used to be, but I have a completely different way of doing it now. I used to be a perfectionist but it was the wrong kind of perfection. And I no longer think perfection is interesting-by definition it's not lifelike. On the set, it's really about refining your sense of what's important within a scene, and within the context of the film. You train yourself to start gravitating toward it, like a metal detector, and you let the other stuff roll down your back." --Soderbergh to Dennis Lim in "Both Sides Now", from Village Voice, January 3-9, 2001.

On his approach to casting actors, Soderbergh told Ben Thompson of London's The Daily Telegraph (January 6, 2001): "I think most of them want to find that area in which they can have a little bit of wiggle room - somewhere they can be interesting movie stars - but a lot of them don't get the opportunity. Maybe they're not encouraged by their handlers or their studios, and then a little bit of pressure builds up and you end up with someone making a horrifically wrong-headed choice."

"I don't think I've ever felt on the inside. It may have looked that way - and in some ways my awareness that it looks that way just makes the sensation even stranger - but to me it's always felt like everyone else is having all the fun." --Steven Soderbergh quoted in "The Director Who Came in From the Cold" by Ben Thompson in The Daily Telegraph, January 6, 2001.

"Traffic" links back to the political cinema of the Sixties and Seventies. In its combination of radical form and content, it is reminiscent of "Medium Cool" and, most of all, "The Battle of Algiers". Like Pontecorvo's revolutionary classic, "Traffic" has both a broad scope and a sharp immediacy. With other filmmakers, these comparisons would be speculative, but Soderbergh is the biggest film buff among current American directors, a man who actually described "The Limey" as 'Alain Resnais directing "Get Carter"'. --From "What a Lucky Soderbergh" by Mark Morris in The Observer, January 7, 2001.

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