Steven Soderbergh: Wikis


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Steven Soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh at the 2009 Venice Film Festival
Born Steven Andrew Soderbergh
January 14, 1963 (1963-01-14) (age 47)
Atlanta, Georgia, United States
Spouse(s) Betsy Brantley (div. 1994)
Jules Asner (2003–)

Steven Andrew Soderbergh (pronounced /ˈsoʊdərbɜrɡ/; born January 14, 1963) is an American film producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, and an Academy Award-winning film director. He is best known for directing the films Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Erin Brockovich, Traffic, Ocean's Eleven and rest of the Ocean's series, Che and The Informant!.


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.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4] His big break came when he directed the Grammy-nominated concert video 9012Live for the rock band Yes in 1985.[5]


1989 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.[6] 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.[7] Movie critic Roger Ebert dubbed Soderbergh the "poster boy of the Sundance generation".[8]

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; The 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. He also directed the Spalding Gray monologue film Gray's Anatomy in 1996.

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.[9] 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.[10] Later that year, Soderbergh released Traffic, a social drama written by Stephen Gaghan and featuring an ensemble cast.

Traffic became his most acclaimed movie since Sex, Lies, and 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

Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Matt Damon, Andy Garcia, Julia Roberts, and Soderbergh in December 2001

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 domestically and more than $450 million worldwide.[11][12] 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.[13]

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.[14][15] Theater-owners, who at the time had been suffering from dropping attendance rates, did not welcome so-called "day-and-date" movies.[16] 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."[17] 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.[18] 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.[citation needed]

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 was released in theatres in two parts titled The Argentine[19] and Guerrilla,[20] 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.[21][22]

Soderbergh shot his feature film The Girlfriend Experience in New York in 2008. The film's lead actress is adult film star Sasha Grey.[23][24][25]

A Warner Brothers film had Soderbergh working with Matt Damon again. A true story, The Informant! featured 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.[26] The film was released on September 18, 2009. The script for the movie was written by Scott Z. Burns based on Kurt Eichenwald’s book, The Informant.

Soderbergh was until recently working on a feature adaptation of the controversial state-of-baseball tome Moneyball, which was going to star Brad Pitt and Demetri Martin. The book, which was written by Michael Lewis, tells the story of how Billy Beane, general manager of Oakland Athletics, beat the odds, leading his team in a series of notable wins in 2002 using statistical analysis to make up for what he lacked in funds. Disagreements between Sony and Soderbergh about revisions to Steve Zaillian's version of the screenplay led to the project being canceled a mere week prior to scheduled production in June 2009. The move, unprecedented in recent history, sent shockwaves through the industry.[27]

He is developing his next directing effort, a 3-D live-action rock musical film based on Cleopatra's life, with Catherine Zeta-Jones in talks to play Cleopatra, and with music by the band Guided by Voices.[28] Soderbergh and scriptwriter Jim Greer will rewrite the lyrics of the songs to fit the story.[29] Hugh Jackman was approached to play Mark Antony but withdrew.[29][30]

In 2009, Soderbergh directed a play entitled Tot-Mom for the Sydney Theatre Company in Sydney, Australia.[31] The play is based on the real-life case of Caylee Anthony. Rehearsals commencenced in early November 2009, and the production opened December 2009. Soderbergh also shot a small feature with the cast of the play, though the subject and title are unknown.

Directorial style and collaborations

Soderbergh has worked with the following actors more than once (in order of first film appearance):

  • Peter Gallagher (Sex, Lies and Videotapes and The Underneath)
  • Eddie Jemison (Schizopolis, Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve, Ocean's Thirteen, and The Informant!)
  • Don Cheadle (Out of Sight, Traffic, Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen)
  • George Clooney (Out of Sight, Ocean's Eleven, Solaris, Ocean's Twelve, The Good German and Ocean's Thirteen)
  • Luis Guzmán (Out of Sight, The Limey, and Traffic)
  • Terrence Stamp (The Limey and Full Frontal)
  • Albert Finney (Erin Brokovich, Traffic and Ocean's Twelve)
  • Julia Roberts (Erin Brokovich, Ocean's Eleven, Full Frontal and Ocean's Twelve)
  • Michael Douglas (Traffic and Knockout)
  • Topher Grace (Traffic, Ocean's Eleven and Ocean's Twelve)
  • Benicio del Toro (Traffic and Che)
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones (Traffic, Ocean's Twelve and Cleo)
  • Matt Damon (Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve, Ocean's Thirteen, Che Part 2: Guerrilla, The Informant! and Contagion)
  • Brad Pitt (Ocean's Eleven, Full Frontal, Ocean's Twelve and Ocean's Thirteen)

"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.[32] 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), later starred in Guerrilla and The Argentine. Catherine Zeta-Jones won a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of Helena in Traffic (2000) and reteamed with him for box-office hit Ocean's Twelve (2004). They're currently working together for the musical Cleo (2011), with Zeta-Jones in the title role. 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.

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.[33] 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.[34]

While Soderbergh is enamoured of dialogue, Soderbergh's incorporation of score and montage are equally prevalent in his story-telling.[35] 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.[33]

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 all three 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 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 rhyming slang as a language game.

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."[36] 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."[37]

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.[38][39]


Possessory credits

Soderbergh is not a fan of possessory credits, and prefers not to have his name front and center at the start of a film. "The fact that I'm not an identifiable brand is very freeing," says Soderbergh, "because people get tired of brands and they switch brands. I've never had a desire to be out in front of anything, which is why I don't take a possessory credit."[40]


On Monday, April 5, 2009, Soderbergh appeared before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Representatives, and "cited the French initiative in asking lawmakers to deputize the American film industry to pursue copyright pirates", indicating he supports anti-piracy laws and internet regulation.[41]

Personal life

Soderbergh is married to writer/journalist (and ex-E! Entertainment Television anchor) Jules Asner whom he often credits for influencing his female characters. Soderbergh claims he no longer reads reviews of his movies. "After Traffic I just stopped completely",[40] says the director. "After winning the LA and New York film critics awards, I really felt like, this can only get worse".[40] He is an atheist.[42]



Year Title Oscar nominations Oscar wins
1985 Yes 9012 Live
1989 Sex, Lies, and Videotape 1 (Original Screenplay)
1991 Kafka
1993 King of the Hill
1995 The Underneath
1996 Gray's Anatomy
1998 Out of Sight 2
1999 The Limey
2000 Erin Brockovich 5 (incl. Best Director) 1
Traffic 5 (incl. Best Director) 4 (incl. Best Director)
2001 Ocean's Eleven
2002 Full Frontal
2004 Ocean's Twelve
2005 Bubble
2006 The Good German 1
2007 Ocean's Thirteen
2008 Che
2009 The Girlfriend Experience
The Informant!
2010 And Everything is Going Fine
2011 Knockout






  1. ^ Steven Soderbergh Biography (1963-)
  2. ^ "Steven Soderbergh at". Retrieved 2007-12-20. 
  3. ^ "Biography of Steven Soderbergh". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  4. ^ "Steven Soderbergh Biography - Yahoo! Movies". Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  5. ^ "allmovie ((( Steven Soderbergh > Biography )))". Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  6. ^ Mahadevan-Dasgupta, Uma (2003-07-18). "A filmmaker's celluloid feats". The Hindu. 
  7. ^ Canby, Vincent (1989-05-27). "CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK; For the Cannes Winner, Untarnished Celebrity". New York Times. 
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (2006-01-27). "Reviews: Bubble". 
  9. ^ "allmovie ((( Schizopolis > Overview )))". Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  10. ^ Dennis Lim (2001-01-03). "Both Sides Now. Having Your Way With Hollywood, or the Further Adventures of Steven Soderbergh".,lim,21165,1.html. 
  11. ^ "Steven Soderbergh Movie Box Office Results". Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  12. ^ "All Time Worldwide Box Office Grosses". Retrieved 2009-05-18. 
  13. ^ Directors Guild of America (2002-03-09). "Guild's National Board elects Martha Coolidge first woman president of DGA". Press release. 
  14. ^ Will Soderbergh's 'Bubble' Burst on Hollywood?. 2006-01-24. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  15. ^ Anne Thompson (2006-03-17). "Distributors hold firm against day-and-date". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  16. ^ Anne Thompson (2006-03-15). "Challenges Seen for Film Biz After 2005 Slide". 
  17. ^ Gary Gentile (2006-01-18). "'Bubble' hits theaters, TV, DVD on same day". USA Today. 
  18. ^ Rob Thomas (2006-03-17). "Independents' day smaller markets to get films on TV at the same time they hit the theaters". The Capital Times. 
  19. ^ The Argentine (2008)
  20. ^ Guerrilla (2008)
  21. ^ Festival de Cannes : Film details 2008
  22. ^ indieWIRE: CANNES '08 NOTEBOOK | The Revolution By Night: Steven Soderbergh's "Che"
  23. ^ Original news release: David Sullivan, „Sasha Grey Stars in Steven Soderbergh Feature“, in: Adult Video News, AVN Media Network (online), 10-14-2008
  24. ^ David Sullivan, „Video: Soderbergh Directs Sasha Grey“, in: Adult Video News, AVN Media Network (online), 10-15-2008
  25. ^ Video of The Girlfriend Experience shoot at
  26. ^ "The Informant". Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  27. ^ "Sony still game for 'Moneyball'". 9 July 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-09. .
  28. ^ „Soderbergh to make 3-D 'Cleopatra'“
  29. ^ a b Tobias, Scott (2009-01-06), "Steven Soderbergh", The Onion (A.V. Club), 
  30. ^ Fleming, Michael (2009-01-01), "Hugh Jackman off 'Cleo' wishlist", Variety, 
  31. ^ [1]
  32. ^ Ellen A. Kim (2000-12-03). ""Traffic": Steven Soderbergh Interview". 
  33. ^ a b Steven Soderbergh IMDB
  34. ^ Conversation About 'Traffic' - Screenwriter Stephen Gaghan talks about his new film, "Traffic" Charlie Rose (refers to Soderbergh as "Michael Jordan") December 27,200
  35. ^ "The Limey" review by Jeff Vorndam (creative editing techniques and hand-held camerawork)
  36. ^ Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times 08/02/02 "Full Frontal"
  37. ^ Rotten Tomatoes reviews top critics "The Good German" Richard Roeper
  38. ^ Anne Thompson. "Steven Soderbergh: The Filmmaker Series". Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  39. ^ Drew Morton. "French New Wave Influences in Steven Soderbergh Films". Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  40. ^ a b c "Steven Soderbergh: The Girlfriend Experience". 21 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-21. .
  41. ^ Kevin J. O'Brien (2009-04-08). ""France Moves to Crack Down on Internet Piracy"". 
  42. ^ Thompson, Stephen (2000-09-06). "Is there a God?". The A.V. Club.,1394/. Retrieved 2009-09-04. 

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