Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh

Infobox Actor
name = Steven Soderbergh

imagesize =
birthdate = birth date and age|mf=yes|1963|1|14
birthplace = Atlanta, Georgia, United States
birthname = Steven Andrew Soderbergh
spouse = Betsy Brantley (div. 1994)
Jules Asner (2003–)
caption = Steven Soderbergh, July 2007
academyawards = Best Director
2000 "Traffic"
awards = Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival
1989 "sex, lies, and videotape"

Steven Andrew Soderbergh (born January 14, 1963) is an American film producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, and Academy Award-winning director. He is best known for directing the films "Sex, Lies, and Videotape", "Traffic", and the "Ocean's Eleven" franchise.

Early life and career

Soderbergh was born in Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Mary Ann (née Bernard) and Peter Andrew Soderbergh, who was a university administrator and educator. [ [ Steven Soderbergh Biography (1963-) ] ] He has Swedish ancestry (the family's original surname in Swedish, Söderberg, was changed to Soderbergh when they immigrated to the United States). When he was a child, his family moved from Atlanta to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where his father became Dean of Education at Louisiana State University (LSU). There he discovered filmmaking as a teenager, directing short Super 8 mm films with equipment borrowed from LSU students. [cite web | url = | title = Steven Soderbergh at | accessdate = 2007-12-20]

His primary high school education was at Louisiana State University Laboratory School, a K-12 school that is directed by the University. While still taking classes there around the age of fifteen, Soderbergh enrolled in the university's film animation class and began making short 16 mm films with secondhand equipment. [cite web | url = | title = Biography of Steven Soderbergh | publisher = Internet Movie Database | accessdate = 2007-12-19]

Rather than attending LSU, Soderbergh tried his luck in Hollywood after graduating from high school; he worked as a game show scorer and cue card holder to make ends meet, and eventually found work as a freelance film editor. [cite web |url=|title=Steven Soderbergh Biography - Yahoo! Movies|accessdate=2007-12-19] His big break came when he directed the Grammy-nominated concert video 9012Live for the rock band Yes in 1985. [cite web|url=|title=allmovie ((( Steven Soderbergh > Biography )))|accessdate=2007-12-19]

Breakthrough: "sex, lies, and videotape"

It wasn't until Soderbergh came back to Baton Rouge that he conceived the idea for "sex, lies, and videotape" (1989), which he wrote in eight days.cite news | title = A filmmaker's celluloid feats | url = | publisher = The Hindu | date = 2003-07-18 | first = Uma | last = Mahadevan-Dasgupta] The independent film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, became a worldwide commercial success and greatly contributed to the 1990s independent film revolution. At age 26, Soderbergh became the youngest director to win the festival's top award. [cite news | title = CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; For the Cannes Winner, Untarnished Celebrity | url = | publisher = New York Times | date = 1989-05-27 | first = Vincent | last = Canby] Movie critic Roger Ebert dubbed Soderbergh the "poster boy of the Sundance generation". [cite web | url = | title = Reviews: Bubble | first = Roger | last = Ebert | date = 2006-01-27]

1993 to 1998

"sex, lies, and videotape" was followed by a series of low-budget box-office disappointments: "Kafka", a biopic mixing fact and Kafka's own fiction (notably "The Castle" and "The Trial"), written by Lem Dobbs and starring Jeremy Irons as Franz Kafka; "King of the Hill" (1993), a critically acclaimed Depression-era drama; "Underneath" (1995), a remake of Robert Siodmak's 1949 film noir "Criss Cross"; and "Schizopolis" (1996), a comedy which he starred in, wrote, composed, and shot as well as directed.

Making good on his "Schizopolis"-inspired "artistic wake-up call," his commercial slump ended in 1998 with "Out of Sight", a stylized adaptation of an Elmore Leonard novel, written by Scott Frank and starring George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. [cite web|url=|title=allmovie ((( Schizopolis > Overview )))|accessdate=2007-12-19] The film was widely praised, though only a moderate box-office success. It reaffirmed Soderbergh's potential, sparking the beginnings of a lucrative artistic partnership between Clooney and Soderbergh.

1999 and 2000

Soderbergh followed up on the success of "Out of Sight" by making another crime caper, "The Limey" (1999), from an original screenplay by Lem Dobbs and starring veteran actors Terence Stamp and Peter Fonda. The film was well-received, but not as much as "Erin Brockovich" (2000), a "Rocky" movie" he directed, written by Susannah Grant and starring Julia Roberts in her Oscar-winning role as a single mother taking on industry in a civil action. [cite web|url=,lim,21165,1.html|title=Both Sides Now. Having Your Way With Hollywood, or the Further Adventures of Steven Soderbergh|author=Dennis Lim|date=2001-01-03] Later that year, Soderbergh released his most ambitious project yet (with a running time of 147 minutes, the film had 135 speaking parts set in eight different cities), "Traffic", a social drama written by Stephen Gaghan and featuring an ensemble cast.

"Traffic" became his most acclaimed movie since "sex, lies, videotape", and earned him an Academy Award for Best Director. He was also nominated that same year for "Erin Brockovich". He is the only director to have been nominated in the same year for Best Director for two different films by the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes and the Directors Guild of America. The double nomination was the first in 60 years. (In 1938, Michael Curtiz was nominated twice, for Angels with Dirty Faces and Four Daughters, but did not win for either film.)

2001 to 2007

"Ocean's Eleven" (2001), featuring an all-star cast and flashy aesthetics, is Soderbergh's highest grossing movie to date, grossing more than $183 million. [cite web|url=|title=Steven Soderbergh Movie Box Office Results|accessdate=2007-12-19] The film's star, George Clooney, subsequently appeared in "Solaris" (2002), marking the third time the two have headlined a film. In the same year, Soderbergh made "Full Frontal" which was shot mostly on digital video in an improvisional style that deliberately blurred the line between which actors were playing characters and which were playing fictionized versions of themselves. A film within a film, the title is a film industry reference to an actor or actress appearing fully nude (aka, "full frontal nudity"). Also in 2002, Soderbergh was elected First Vice President of the Directors Guild of America. [cite press release | publisher = Directors Guild of America | title = Guild's National Board elects Martha Coolidge first woman president of DGA | url = | date = 2002-03-09]

Following up "Full Frontal" stylistically was Soderbergh next project, "K Street" (2003), a ten-part political HBO series he co-produced with Clooney. The series was noteworthy for being both partially improvised and each episode being produced in the 5 days prior to airing to take advantage of topical events that could be worked into the fictional narrative. Actual political players appeared as themselves, either in cameos or fictionalized versions of themselves (as were the leads, real life husband and wife James Carville and Mary Matalin). The show caused a stir during the 2004 Democratic Primary when Carville gave candidate Howard Dean a soundbite during a location shoot that Dean then used in a debate.

"Ocean's Twelve" (2004), a sequel to "Ocean's Eleven", has followed. "The Good German" a romantic drama set in post-war Berlin starring Cate Blanchett and Clooney was released in late 2006. The sixth pairing of Clooney and Soderbergh, "Ocean's Thirteen", was released in June 2007.

Latest work

In 2006, Soderbergh raised eyebrows with "Bubble", a $1.6 million film featuring a cast of nonprofessional actors. It opened in selected theaters and HDNet simultaneously, and four days later on DVD. Industry heads were reportedly watching how the film performed, as its unusual release schedule could have implications for future feature films. [cite audio|title=Will Soderbergh's 'Bubble' Burst on Hollywood?|accessdate=2007-12-19|date=2006-01-24|url=] [cite web|url=|title=Distributors hold firm against day-and-date|date=2006-03-17|author=Anne Thompson|publisher=The Hollywood Reporter] Theater-owners, who at the time had been suffering from dropping attendance rates, did not welcome so-called "day-and-date" movies. [cite web|url=|title=Challenges Seen for Film Biz After 2005 Slide|author=Anne Thompson|date=2006-03-15] National Association of Theatre Owners president and CEO John Fithian indirectly called the film's release model "the biggest threat to the viability of the cinema industry today." [cite web|url=|title='Bubble' hits theaters, TV, DVD on same day|publisher=USA Today|author=Gary Gentile|date=2006-01-18] Soderbergh's response to such criticism: "I don't think it's going to destroy the movie-going experience any more than the ability to get takeout has destroyed the restaurant business." The film did poor business both at the box office and on the home video market. [cite web|url=|title=Independents' day smaller markets to get films on TV at the same time they hit the theaters|author=Rob Thomas|date=2006-03-17|publisher=The Capital Times] Nevertheless, Soderbergh is on contract to deliver five more day-and-date movies. In fall of 2006 he contributed a mini-essay on hotel pornography, along with an accompanying series of long-exposure photographs, to [ Anthem] magazine's November/December issue.

In 2007, Soderbergh and Tony Gilroy contributed an audio commentary to the DVD re-release of "The Third Man" by the Criterion Collection.

On May 22, 2008, "Che", which may be released in theatres in two parts titled "The Argentine" [ [ The Argentine (2008) ] ] and "Guerrilla", [ [ Guerrilla (2008) ] ] was presented in the main competition of the 2008 Cannes film festival. Benicio del Toro plays Argentine guerrilla Ernesto "Che" Guevara in an epic four-hour double bill which looks first at his role in the Cuban uprising before moving to his campaign and eventual death in Bolivia. [ [ Festival de Cannes : Film details 2008 ] ] [ [ indieWIRE: CANNES '08 NOTEBOOK | The Revolution By Night: Steven Soderbergh's "Che" ] ]

Directorial style and collaborations with actors

"I've always gotten along with them," says Soderbergh of actors, "I try and make sure they're OK, and when they're in the zone, I leave them alone. I don't get in their way." His non-intrusive directorial style has attracted repeat performances by many high-profile movie stars. [cite web|url=|title="Traffic": Steven Soderbergh Interview||author=Ellen A. Kim|date=2000-12-03] Julia Roberts had supporting roles in "Ocean's Eleven", "Ocean's Twelve", and "Full Frontal", and won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her lead in "Erin Brockovich". Benicio del Toro, who also won an Academy Award for his work in a Soderbergh film ("Traffic"), is starring in the upcoming "Guerrilla" and "The Argentine". Other frequent sightings in Soderbergh's filmography include character actors Luis Guzmán ("Out of Sight", "The Limey", and "Traffic") and Don Cheadle ("Out of Sight", "Traffic", "Ocean's Eleven", "Ocean's Twelve", and "Ocean's Thirteen"). But the actor who played the leading role in no fewer than six of his films is George Clooney, with whom he co-owns the film production company, Section Eight Productions. Section Eight produced the critical hits "Far From Heaven", "Insomnia", and "Syriana" as well as the Clooney-directed films "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" and "Good Night, and Good Luck."

Soderbergh often acts as his own director of photography under the alias of Peter Andrews and occasionally as his own editor under the alias of Mary Ann Bernard. While shooting "Traffic", Soderbergh wanted a credit of "Photographed and Directed by". The Writer's Guild (WGA) wouldn't allow another credit ahead of the writer. Because Soderbergh didn't want his name used more than once, he adopted a pseudonym, Peter Andrews, his father's first and middle names.

A Warner Brothers film will have Soderbergh working with Matt Damon again. A true story, " The Informant", will have Matt Damon playing the role of Mark Whitacre, a corporate whistleblower. Whitacre wore a wire for two and a half years for the FBI as a high-level executive at a Fortune 500 company, Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), in one of the largest price-fixing cases in history. [cite web|url=|title=The Informant||accessdate=2007-12-19] Filming is expected to commence on April 15, 2008. The script for the movie was written by Scott Z. Burns based on Kurt Eichenwald’s book, "The Informant".


Soderbergh often utilizes Cliff Martinez to construct/compose the soundtracks to his movies, and when not cutting his own films, he relies on editor Stephen Mirrione.


Soderbergh has made big-budget Hollywood films as well as art-house independent films; works with above-the-title movie stars and unknowns; directs adaptations and original material, both of which written by himself as well as other screenwriters. [ Steven Soderbergh IMDB] ] His versatility is also apparent with the genres which he chooses to film and his trades as a filmmaker behind the scenes. "Traffic" screenwriter and "Syriana" director Stephen Gaghan named Soderbergh "the Michael Jordan of filmmaking" for his ability to assume so many distinct roles in film production. [ Conversation About 'Traffic' - Screenwriter Stephen Gaghan talks about his new film, "Traffic" Charlie Rose (refers to Soderbergh as "Michael Jordan") December 27,200] ]

His films are, in almost every instance, distinct in atmosphere and tone.Book: "Alternative Scriptwriting" By Ken Dancyger and Jeff Rush, p. 74] While Soderbergh is enamoured of dialogue, Soderbergh's incorporation of score and montage are equally prevalent in his story-telling. [ "The Limey" review by Jeff Vorndam (creative editing techniques and hand-held camerawork)] ] Even Soderbergh's light-hearted affairs, such as "Out of Sight" and "Ocean's 11", contain scenes where images and score are the dominant story-telling mechanisms. Films such as "Solaris" and "Traffic" are heavily layered in scenes absent of dialogue altogether. Cliff Martinez, a frequent collaborator with Soderbergh, composes many of the scores that provide Soderbergh with the thematic and sonic landscapes into which he inserts his characters. [ Steven Soderbergh IMDB] ]

But while Soderbergh's subject matter is highly varied, many of his films feature as a central theme the exploration of the act or moral consequences of lying. For example, the protagonists in two early films, "King of the Hill" and "sex, lies, and videotape", are both pathological liars (one in training, one in recovery), while most of the characters in both Oceans films are con artists. It is interesting to note that he directed Spalding Gray in "Gray's Anatomy" after "King of the Hill", an actor who often commented that he was unable to "make anything up". "Full Frontal" is another film in this thread, where seemingly the fundamental dishonesty of the entire filmmaking process is exposed. More distantly, Soderbergh's interest in Cockney rhyming slang, as seen in "The Limey" and the Oceans films, may be seen as part of this theme, based on the conjectured origin of Cockney rhyming slang as a language game.

Some critics can make sense of Soderbergh's brave (albeit some times exasperating) folly into experimental filmmaking, others not so much. In his review of "Full Frontal" film critic Roger Ebert commented that, "Every once in a while, perhaps as an exercise in humility, Steven Soderbergh makes a truly inexplicable film... A film so amateurish that only the professionalism of some of the actors makes it watchable... It's the kind of film where you need the director telling you what he meant to do and what went wrong and how the actors screwed up and how there was no money for retakes, etc." [ Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times 08/02/02 "Full Frontal"] ] About Soderbergh's film, "The Good German" and his emphasis on style over substance, film critic Richard Roeper commented that the film had to offer, "a lot of style. Not so much with the plot." [ Rotten Tomatoes reviews top critics "The Good German" Richard Roeper] ]

Soderbergh has, nonetheless, been dubbed a stylistic chameleon by Anne Thompson of "Premiere Magazine". Drew Morton has extensively researched Soderbergh and has tied him to a modern movement much like the French New Wave. [cite web|url=|title=Steven Soderbergh: The Filmmaker Series|author=Anne Thompson|accessdate=2007-12-19] [cite web|url=|title=French New Wave Influences in Steven Soderbergh Films|author=Drew Morton|accessdate=2007-12-19]

Quotes on Filmmaking

This is a good moment to comment on the cottage industry that has sprung up around "How To ..." Screenwriting manuals. I think of this because Towne's script, "Chinatown" is often cited as a great template (which it is) but, invariably, with no understanding or acknowledgment of the role "film editing" has in shaping a finished work.

So any discussion that omits this issue shows a palpable lack of experience in theactual making of films on the part of the scriptwriting teacher/author.

Personal life

Soderbergh is married to writer/journalist (and ex-E! Entertainment Television anchor) Jules Asner.Soderbergh often credits Asner for influencing his female characters.




*1989: "sex, lies, and videotape"
*1993: "King of the Hill"
*1995: "Underneath" as Sam Lowry
*1996: "Schizopolis"
*1997: "Nightwatch"
*2002: "Solaris"
*2004: "Eros" - the segment "Equilibrium"


*1996: "Schizopolis"
*2000: "Traffic" - as Peter Andrews
*2001: "Ocean's Eleven" - as Peter Andrews
*2002: "Full Frontal" - as Peter Andrews
*2002: "Solaris" - as Peter Andrews
*2004: "Ocean's Twelve" - as Peter Andrews
*2004: "Eros" - the segment "Equilibrium"
*2006: "Bubble" - as Peter Andrews
*2006: "The Good German" - as Peter Andrews
*2007: "Ocean's Thirteen" - as Peter Andrews


*1989: "sex, lies, and videotape"
*1991: "Kafka"
*1993: "King of the Hill"
*2002: "Solaris" - as Mary Ann Bernard
*2004: "Eros" - the segment "Equilibrium"
*2006: "Bubble" - as Mary Ann Bernard
*2006: "The Good German" - as Mary Ann Bernard


*1994: "Suture"
*1996: "The Daytrippers"
*1998: "Pleasantville"
*2002: "Far from Heaven"
*2002: "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"
*2002: "Welcome to Collinwood"
*2002: "Naqoyqatsi"
*2004: "Keane"
*2004: "Criminal"
*2005: "Syriana"
*2005: "Good Night, and Good Luck"
*2005: "The Jacket"
*2007: "I'm Not There"
*2008: "Tishomingo Blues"


External links

*imdb name|id=0001752|name=Steven Soderbergh
* [ Steven Soderbergh Bibliography (via UC Berkeley)]
* [ "Steven Soderbergh: Interviews"]
* [ 'The Believer' interview]
* [ NPR: "Bubble" (01/2006)]
* [ "Wired" interview (12/2005)]
* [ "French New Wave Influences in Steven Soderbergh Films" (05/2003)]
* [,3605,899386,00.html "Guardian" interview (02/2003)]
* [,lim,21165,1.html#soderbergh "Village Voice: Soderbergh on Soderbergh" (01/2001)]
* [ "Film Comment" interview (01/2001)]
* [ "Steven Soderbergh Fansite"]
* [^ "State of independence". Scotland on Sunday (2005-01-23).]

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