Steven Soderbergh has been ready to discuss his new film Che before he even began production on the highly controversial story. The maverick director knows that people have their knives out to see what is and isn’t included in the biography of revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Questions of his motives or any kind of political agenda have been haunting Soderbergh since the film’s Cannes debut but he seems confident in letting the film speak for itself.
Best known for his Hollywood blockbusters like the Ocean’s trilogy, Erin Brockovich and Traffic, Soderbergh has also balanced out the big films with small personal projects like Solaris, Bubble, Full Frontal and the upcoming The Girlfriend Experience. These films are minimalist in tone and structure, serving to mostly tell a small story with as little disruption as possible. Some have come to dread these Soderbergh “experiments,” comparing them to watching paint dry and writing them off as complete nonsense. The 46-year-old director uses each of his smaller projects to tackle something different and to learn from the process.
“It can be easy to dismiss but in point of fact they feed the other movies in a way that’s really important," Soderbergh told
OXOFFICE. "I get to try things that even if they don’t come off have taught me something that I can use on another film. So they’re really important for me.”
During the course of our interview Soderbergh took the initiative to ask for something very few artists have, more time. In an age where journalists are used to doing quick interviews to get a story, it’s easy to forget that fifteen minutes isn’t nearly enough time to get into a real conversation with anyone. So when Soderbergh surprised me by asking to carry the interview for longer than the time allotted, I was shocked in the best possible way.
“I won’t do an interview less then 20 (minutes). Sometimes that excludes people that don’t want to talk to you for more than four minutes and I probably shouldn’t be talking to them. The sooner you can get past the boiler plate stuff, then you can get into talking and especially in a movie like this, there’s a lot of territory to cover and a lot of issues you can jump off into, the longer the better. I did a four hour interview once, it was fun,” said Soderbergh.
Che could be categorized as one of Soderbergh’s experiments, an almost four-and-a-half hour (with intermission) look at the man who is known to many as simply a face on a T-shirt rather than a revolutionary. Soderbergh’s old production company Section Eight (which he ran with producing partner George Clooney) would have tackled this material in a heartbeat. Their reputation was built on nurturing filmmakers in order to get hard to make films made. The result were challenging films like Good Night and Good Luck, Insomnia and Michael Clayton, adult films for an adult audience. Section Eight closed its doors over a year ago due to a massive workload and film geeks everywhere were left with broken hearts. To hear Soderbergh tell it, he was sorry to see Section Eight go too but is hoping to pour that same energy and passion into his forthcoming films.
“The fun thing about it was the criteria was very subjective and very personal on our part and it was merely what do we like to see and who are some of the young filmmakers we would like to work with. And that was the good news. Unfortunately we kind of became, I don’t know if success is the right word, we became victims of overload. The workload got so significant that we determined that we couldn’t continue it at that pace. We both had day jobs and this thing was turning into the sorcerer’s apprentice. At a certain point we both sat down and decided that officially we will have done a six year run and that we’d rather go out on a high note than have it turn into something else. We wanted to go out with Abbey Road and sort of be able to say, Section Eight was always this. George is still producing on a less active scale and I’ve just gotten out of it altogether. It was a lot of work.”
Che is now playing in select theatres and On Demand nationwide.
CLICK HERE to listen to our entire interview with Steven Soderbergh.