Steven Soderbergh’s sabbatical from making movies is officially over. While he took a detour into television with “The Knick,” the director has two films in the works: “Mosaic,” an experimental project over at HBO (which may not quite resemble a film in the end and could be a kind of a series), and the NASCAR heist comedy, “Logan Lucky.”
But last night at The Nitehawk theaters in Williamsburg, the director, who rarely looks back at his work, was doing just that with a screening of “Haywire” followed by a Q&A afterwards (presented by Soderbergh’s liquor line Singani 63). But the conversation, moderated by Esquire and Daily Beast writer Aaron Goldfarb, inadvertently began with talk that lead to Soderbergh’s sophomore effort, “Kafka” starring Jeremy Irons, Theresa Russell, Ian Holm, and the late Alec Guinness. It’s no secret that Soderbergh has been re-editing the film (which could come out on The Criterion Collection when it’s finally done), but the filmmaker gave a lot of fascinating details on the do-over.
“I’ve been working on, at no one’s request, ‘Kafka’ for 14 years,” the director said dryly to laughter. “I have an idea, I have an approach. It was a movie I was never really happy with even at the time. “
The filmmaker explained the rights to the film reverted to him, and his producer (who also co-owned rights) asked him if he would be interested in working on the film again simply because he knew the director was never satisfied with it. “The tone was uneven. Tone is the hardest thing to maintain,” the filmmaker said about the picture.
Soderbergh agreed and unveiled some very interesting details about the reworking. For one, it’s no longer in English and now is in German (presumably dubbed, but he didn’t quite elaborate, though he joked audiences would need to “understand German”).
The director also divulged that he shot new inserts, on black and white film, during the filming of “Side Effects” and has radically retooled the film. “I’m calling it the ‘Midnight Edition,’” he said. “It’s very weird. I didn’t solve any of the problems, I’ve just mitigated them by making it so weird. You’re so distracted by the weirdness that you don’t notice what doesn’t make any sense.”
When the conversation swung back to “Haywire,” Soderbergh dropped a big reveal about the 007 series. “Over the years, I’ve been in conversations… ,” he said with a pause and some hesitation and then just blurted it out. “I’ve been approached twice about doing a Bond film. And it never quite got anywhere. And [‘Haywire’] in some ways, was my opportunity to do what I would do with a Bond movie.”
His nixed baseball film, “Moneyball,” also came up (“I was fired,” he said with a laugh after attempting to delicately explain the matter). The deep-sixed project, which was supposed to feature 27 real baseball players as themselves, came up because it led directly to “Haywire.” Soderbergh, for one, didn’t want to let his crew down so scrambled to find another film. “I had 175 people who thought they were going to work on Monday, so my immediate concern was, ‘We need to find something to do now, like right away. All of these people don’t have a job.’ ”
Soderbergh then explained the oft-told story: he saw “Haywire” star Gina Carano in an MMA fight and quickly conceived of a movie around her. The rest is history. For “Haywire,” action film fanatics and Soderbergh fans, this is a must-listen conversation filled with lots of interesting tidbits: a possible “Haywire” sequel that didn’t happen and a now-gone possibility of doing the movie as a TV show; being pushed off “Quiz Show” as a director, booze talk, and more. The conversation thankfully was recorded by Playlist contributor Chris Bell.
Listen to the entire 52-minute talk below (or above).
Audio removed at the request of the venue.