The old saying "quit while you're ahead" seems to be an adage that director Steven Soderbergh has taken to heart.
In a Q & A with Vulture on Sunday, the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind such films as "Erin Brockovich," "Traffic," "Ocean's Eleven," and "Magic Mike" confirmed his intentions to retire from moviemaking this year. The 50-year-old Soderbergh believes that the upcoming psychological thriller "Side Effects" will be his last theatrical film.
The film stars Rooney Mara ("The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo") as Emily Taylor, a depressed young woman whose experimental medication gets her into serious trouble withe the law. Frequent Soderbergh collaborators Jude Law ("Contagion") and Channing Tatum ("Haywire," "Magic Mike") co-star as Emily's psychiatrist and husband, respectively.
However, it wasn't the production of "Side Effects" that precipitated Soderbergh's early retirement (or any of the other five movies he's made since 2011). Rather, the director said, it was "a combination of things" over a very long period of time that convinced him to throw in the towel. In the Vulture interview, Soderbergh cited his struggles getting the two-part Che Guevara biopic "Che" made, Tinsel Town's obsession with focus groups, and the way that studios and producers treat directors as the primary reasons for his very public exit.
"The worst development in filmmaking—particularly in the last five years—is how badly directors are treated," said Soderbergh. "It’s become absolutely horrible the way the people with the money decide they can fart in the kitchen, to put it bluntly. It’s not just studios—it’s anyone who is financing a film."
Whether Soderbergh was speaking from personal experience (despite being an award-winning filmmaker and critical darling, Soderbergh was reportedly fired by the producers of "Moneyball" when they didn't like the direction he was taking the film) or talking more generally about the lot of most filmmakers in Hollywood doesn't really matter. Either way, it's a pretty damning parting shot from a high profile director.
Soderbergh isn't the only big filmmaker who has recently been talking up the idea of retirement. Writer/filmmaker Kevin Smith announced his retirement from feature filmmaking last year, pointing to the studio distribution system as the main reason, and the always outspoken "Django Unchained" director Quentin Tarantino recently said he's toying with the idea of retiring after his tenth film, before he becomes a "old-man filmmaker."
"Directors don’t get better as they get older," Tarantino told Playboy. "Usually the worst films in their filmography are those last four at the end. I am all about my filmography, and one bad film f---s up three good ones … When directors get out-of-date, it’s not pretty."
Tarantino's reasoning for retirement definitely seems a little more selfish than Soderbergh',s though. When asked about his own legacy, Soderbergh told Vulture's Mary Kaye Schilling that he had no idea what it would be. "As Orson Welles said, I’m the bird, you’re the ornithologist."
See also: Steven Soderbergh's Top 5 best films
Technically, the director still has a little more time to secure said legacy. February is a big month for Soderbergh: Not only will his final theatrical film hit theatres, but his TV biopic about the life of musician Liberace, "Behind the Candelabra" (starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon), will air on HBO. Although he claims to be finished with movies, the director said he might turn up on the small screen under the right circumstances.
"Just to be clear, I won’t be directing 'cinema,'" said Soderbergh. "But I still plan to direct — theater stuff, and I’d do a TV series if something great were to come along."
"Side Effects" arrives in theatres on Feb. 8.