Ambition and entertainment director: Steven Soderbergh turns 60


Writed by - Andy Gocker
  Ambition and entertainment director: Steven Soderbergh turns 60
Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh is celebrating his 60th birthday. © imago/ZUMA Press, SpotOn

From 'Traffic' to 'Magic Mike'

Hardly anyone in Hollywood serves a similar range as director Steven Soderbergh. From complex legal thrillers like 'Erin Brockovich' to stylish gangster comedies like 'Ocean's Eleven' to the shallow dance fun in 'Magic Mike', everything is included. Now the all-rounder is celebrating his 60th birthday and should be happy that he didn't aim for a sports career instead.

Turbulent childhood and decision for the film

Steven Soderbergh was the fifth of six children of a psychologist and a professor of education. Born in Atlanta, he had to move house several times at a young age before the family settled in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1977. In 1979 his parents separated.

Young Steven showed great talent for baseball, but his love for film was stronger: at the age of 13 he shot his first strips with a Super 8 camera. He was inspired by director icons such as Steven Spielberg (76) or George Lucas (78). After school, Soderbergh first tried his hand as an editor, but was not happy with it. Instead, he set his first exclamation mark with the concert film '9012Live: The Solos' about the band Yes: The work was nominated for Best Long Music Video at the 1986 Grammy Awards.

With 'Sex, Lies and Video' for the first Oscar nomination

With the drama 'Sex, Lügen und Video', where Soderbergh directed, wrote and edited, he achieved the next milestone: the film with James Spader (62) and Andie MacDowell (64) won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 1990 Oscars. It is said that Soderbergh only needed eight days for the script.

His commercial breakthrough came in 1998 with 'Out of Sight' with Hollywood superstar George Clooney (61), with whom he was also friends. The crook comedy grossed over $77 million (about €70 million) worldwide. Clooney and the filmmaker even started a production company together in 2000. Soderbergh finally got an Oscar honor in 2001 with 'Traffic - the power of the cartel'. Particularly noteworthy: The filmmaker was nominated twice for Best Director at the awards ceremony, since he shot 'Erin Brockovich' in the same year.

The turn of the millennium should really be worthwhile for the director: In 2001 he shot 'Ocean's Eleven' with his buddy George Clooney and a whole squad of other top stars, which brought in over 450 million US dollars (about 414 million euros) at the box office worldwide. The comedy is Soderbergh's most financially successful film to date. The 2004 and 2007 sequels were still very productive, grossing well over $300 million.

All-out attack on Hollywood

Regardless of his personal success, the star director lashed out at Hollywood at length at the 2013 San Francisco International Film Festival. As an illustrative example in his speech 'on the state of film', he cited his recently released feature film 'Side Effects'. Despite good reviews, it was only moderately received at the box office. For example, the filmmaker went on to say that the studios were increasingly relying on easy-to-digest blockbusters. He also criticized the horrendous marketing costs.

After that he did not direct a movie for a few years, his 'Liberace' biopic became a TV production in 2014. But the strip also creamed off eleven Emmys. It wasn't until 2017 that he again directed a film for the big screen with 'Logan Lucky'.

'Contagion' and its Corona comeback

In 2011, Soderbergh's 'Contagion' starring Matt Damon (52) and Kate Winslet (47) was released. At the time, he probably had no idea that the thriller would celebrate a sad comeback nine years later: the story about the fight against a deadly pandemic returned to the iTunes film charts with the Corona crisis. In March 2020, the actors from the film even appeared in Twitter videos as ambassadors for the Corona rules. Soderbergh himself was soon appointed by the Director's Guild of America to head a committee to clarify when and how work in Hollywood could safely resume.

In December 2020, Soderbergh revealed on the Happy Sad Confused podcast that he was working with Contagion screenwriter Scott Z. Burns on what he described as a 'philosophical sequel' to Contagion. So the two films are connected, but would differ thematically from each other. However, nothing has been heard from the project since then. Instead, the director was responsible for “Kimi” 2022, a thriller about the corona pandemic that is reminiscent of the Hitchcock classic “The Window to the Court” under lockdown conditions.

An actual sequel, however, will soon appear: In the dance film 'Magic Mike's Last Dance', Channing Tatum (42) strips for the last time on February 9, 2023. As with the first part in 2012, Steven Soderbergh directed it.

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