BREAKFAST WITH ASSHOLES: 14: STEVEN SODERBERGH

Rice Krispies, Coco-pops, Cornflakes, Shredded Wheat, Weet-a-bix, porridge, orange juice, cranberry juice, tomato juice, all in unsatisfyingly small portions

Steven Soderbergh looks exhausted. He answers the door in his robe and he’s the ghost of the man I met all those years ago at Sundance, the bright young thing who had just made Sex, Lies and Videotapes. ‘I have some dreadful news,’ he opens before I’ve chosen my weapon from the mini-bar of breakfast cereal he’s arranged from me.
‘Oh, God! Ocean’s 14?’ I ask, trying to keep the terror from my voice.

‘No,’ said Soderbergh. ‘I’m retiring. I’m done. Side Effects will be my last film.’ 
‘Oh what a relief!’
‘What?’
‘I mean that’s terrible.’
‘Yes, it is terrible.’
I munch my coco-pops. ‘It’s like when you retired before Contagion and then again after Out of Sight. What was your favourite retirement?’
‘Probably right after Kafka… No, wait, what do you mean? I’ve never retired before this is the … what are you implying?’
‘No you’re right, this is very sad,’ I make a start on the Rice Krispies. ‘Why are you retiring this time… I mean, now?’
‘The lack of respect for directors is the main reason,’ says Soderbergh.
I hold up a finger so I can hear the snap, crackle and pop. ‘Go on,’ I tell him.
‘Yes, the … er … respect for directors, it just isn’t there any more. When I was making Haywire there were so many people trying to second guess me, like did I want someone who could actually act in the lead? they’d say. As if that was an accident. I mean they were right but still it hurt my feelings. It was The Girlfriend Experience all over again. Other people said I should have put some jokes in The Informant! and Full Frontal, you know, to let the audience know they were comedies.’
‘I see.’ I munch meditatively. ‘So that’s it? You’re out?’
‘Definitely. And it’s such a pity because I had so many projects lined up. Benico was on board for Che Part 3: The T-Shirt and of course I don’t feel I’ve got right to the bottom of the Danny Ocean saga. Maybe I could be persuaded if the terms were right…’
‘No, Steve I think you’ve done the right thing.’
I’m backing toward the door now.
‘If I was deified or a city was named after me … I’ve always wanted to make a porn film in which all the actors were really ugly, and me and Clooney have been talking about remaking Tarkovsky’s Stalker. Making it zippy though.’
‘No, that’s it Steve. Retirement. I got it. Bye.’
He’s running after me down the street, the robe flapping. ‘Wait, wait, I’ve changed my mind.’

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