Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh is an all-purpose jack of all trades. That means beyond directing, he’s executive producing, mentoring, guiding, advising, godfathering, innovating, and even writing (the humble filmmaker vehemently stressed a few years back he was decidedly not a writer, but amusingly, he wrote three screenplays during the spring 2020 lockdown which he told me he intends to direct).
Some of the up-and-coming filmmakers Soderbergh shouted out in his prescient, now-famous 2014 San Francisco International Film Festival state of address and would subsequently mentor were Amy Seimetz and pre-“Moonlight” Barry Jenkins. Seimetz would go on to write and direct an entire co-season of the Soderbergh produced “The Girlfriend Experience” on Starz. And Jenkins?
Two years ago (at least), a source close to both camps told me a good story about “The Knick,” Soderbergh’s turn-of-the-century medical drama that ran for two seasons on Cinemax from 2014-2016: Barry Jenkins and “The Knick” co-star André Holland were discussing to the idea of reviving the series for a third, or brand new season now starring Holland’s Dr. Algernon C. Edwards character (Clive Owen’s lead character died at the end of Season 2).
The idea was still germinating, percolating and the concept was Jenkins would direct (or, at least some of it), but it was still early gestating days and seemed premature to report. But in a recent interview with Soderbergh to discuss “Wireless,” a new innovative mobile-phone thriller on Quibi he executive–produced, the filmmaker confirmed the news to me when I put the story to him directly.
“Yeah. [André] and Barry took that on,” he confirmed, suggesting he would only stay on in an executive producer role as he usually does with projects he passes on to others like ‘GFE.’ “I told them, ’Look, I had, I had my shot. Godspeed, take it in whatever direction you want.’”
Soderbergh even confirmed that original creators, showrunners, and writers Jack Amiel and Michael Begler were back on board and had already written a pilot episode. “[André and Barry] came up with a really great approach with Jack and Michael,” he explained. “And that seems to be advancing rapidly. I just read the pilot, which is terrific.”
I asked Soderbergh if Jenkins would direct the new ‘Knick’ series, or parts of it, but he didn’t want to speak on the filmmaker’s behalf.
“I’m very passive on that,” he said. “That’s all Barry’s baby.” Barry Jenkins, the balls in your court. And speaking of courts, before I could ask if Cinemax is back in the mix, greenlit, or would host the new series again, Soderbergh also revealed that a sequel to “High Flying Bird”— perhaps an indirect one, however— was definitely happening with a script already written.
“I also just read the new draft of what André and I consider the follow-up to “High Flying Bird,” he continued. “That’s really strong and incredibly timely, but it’s slightly different. It’s still sports, but it, but in a different context and I read it thinking, ‘Well, this all should happen soon. We need to like hit the gas pedal right now.’”
I’d noted that “High Flying Bird” took on a second life in a similar way to the way “Contagion” did during the pandemic. “Yeah, in a slightly smaller way, but certainly the core idea was within the air,” he explained. “[A sequel] was something that we were already interested in, but because of COVID and Black Lives Matter, suddenly, the power that the players have became really obvious. It was exciting to see them use it for change and to create awareness. They weren’t using it to line their pockets. I was riveted. I wanted to know more about all these conversations that led up to them going on strike.”
Soderbergh also confirmed that he wouldn’t be directing, but that he and Holland were already eyeing new talent to take over. “It needs to be done like immediately, and I’ve got two [movies] back to back that are already ready to go,” he explained as the reason he wouldn’t return to the directing chair. “So, André and I are talking about who we want to approach, right now.”
Read our full interview with Soderbergh about Quibi and “Wireless” here. More from this interview soon.