Steven Soderbergh talks retirement from directing: 'I want a change.'


Image Credit: Joe Corrigan/Getty Images

Is Steven Soderbergh done with directing? Matt Damon seems to think so, and the filmmaker himself admitted that he was “exhausted” on Rich Eisen’s NFL podcast back in January. Now, in an interview with Kurt Anderson for Studio 360, Soderbergh talks at length about his plans to move on from filmmaking (admittedly, only after he wraps up work on his next four films). Says the director, “You know when you see one of those athletes hang on two seasons too long? It’s kind of sad, because then your last image of them isn’t when they were great…I mean, why not go out with Abbey Road?”

As you might expect from the creative mind who created movies as diverse as Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, The Girlfriend Experience, and the four-hour two-film epic Che, Soderbergh’s feelings about his “retirement” are quite complex, and come from an exhaustion less physical than existential:

“The tyranny of narrative is starting to really weigh on me. I’m convinced that there’s some other way of organizing images and ideas that can create an emotional response in an audience. I can’t figure out what it is. I certainly don’t think I could get somebody to write a check to let me go off and take however long it takes to figure it out. I just need to step out. I’ve been running really fast in a certain direction for awhile. I want a change.”

“It’s a sense of having been there before,” Soderbergh continues. “That’s when I started thinking seriously about a shift. I don’t like that feeling. I don’t like the feeling of repeating something I’ve done.” Soderbergh notes that he’s not quite done yet — besides the already-completed films Haywire and Contagion, he’s in pre-production on the Liberace biopic with Matt Damon and Michael Douglas, and he’s currently planning to make a film version of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (starring longtime collaborator George Clooney) as his cinematic swan song. “Everything else, I’ve gotten rid of,” he tells Anderson. “For the last three years, I’ve been turning down everything that comes my way. You’re not gonna have Steven Soderbergh to kick around anymore.”

That last sentence is, of course, a riff on something Richard Nixon said when he retired…eight years before becoming president. I’m holding out hope that Soderbergh just needs to recharge his creative batteries, Jordan-playing-baseball style, and that he’ll return to filmmaking eventually. Soderbergh is only 48 years old. (Even if he took a Terrence Malick-style 20-year break from filmmaking, he’d still just be the same age as Clint Eastwood was 12 films ago.) I realize that Soderbergh’s films aren’t always everyone’s cup of tea — heck, I’m a fan of the guy, and even I couldn’t stand The Good German — but it’s always interesting to see an artist willingly retire very near the top of his game.

PopWatchers, what do you think about Soderbergh’s pronouncements? Does this make you more excited about his next few film projects? And isn’t there some way that Soderbergh’s billionaire pal Mark Cuban could just write the guy a check and let him find “a new way of organizing images and ideas”? Hey, it can’t be worse than a Charlie Sheen show. Also, if you’re the kind of person who enjoys Michael Curtiz shout-outs, be sure to check out the full audio of the interview.

Comments (11 total) Add your comment
  • saywhat

    “The tyranny of narrative…” aww, does somebody need a hug?

  • Ceballos


  • Chase

    It has to be expected from someone so prolific and creative. He certainly has experimented with the boundaries of cinema, and a break will do him good. I think he is one of the most exciting cinematic minds working today, so he will definitely be missed.

  • Anne

    Too bad he hasn’t had a box-office success since the Oceans films – all of his recent films have been bombs. Honestly, I think that’s probably why he wants to retire. Maybe he would re-consider his declaration of retirement if he had another box office success for a non-Oceans movie.

    • A-K87

      maybe he is artistically, rather than financially, motivated.. did you consider that?

  • feofjo

    HE wants to retire because his personal life is in the spotlight. There is a story out there that he cheated in his wife.

  • Mark

    My guess is that the “Liberace” epic is going to bring said director and film a boat load of Oscar nominations. Neither Damon nor Douglas would have committed to these roles without a fantastic story to play. Especially Damon – Scott Thornson is basically a con artist in drag and about as far from “Bourne” or “The Adjustment Bureau” as you could get. That role should end any talk about Damon having a “limited range”…LOL,

  • ben

    It’s a shame because he’s a great director. Hope the Liberace film is amazing as it does have Michael Douglas and Matt Damon.

  • katy

    Sad news, but we’ll always have Out of Sight….

  • Daniel F

    THE INFORMANT! is his best most recent film. Soooo underrated. More people need to see that movie.

  • cheating spuose

    The very next time I read a blog, Hopefully it does not disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read, but I truly thought you would probably have something helpful to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you weren’t too busy seeking attention.

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