I’ve written about the three greatest film diaries, (okay, that’s four)… now I’m writing about the strangest of all film diaries: “Getting Away With It: Or: The Further Adventures of the Luckiest Bastard You Ever Saw.” This document is of one of the most successful directing careers in Hollywood. Steven Soderbergh, who boasts about three comebacks (maybe only second to John Travolta), wrote this one before his “Out the Sight” resurgence.
Back then, he was a writer/director. How tragic is it that he shed the writer portion of his career, after writing arguably the greatest independent film of all time, “Sex, Lies and Videotape.” But we learn why in this half diary. He talks about how much he hates screenwriting. He’s frequently in hotel rooms, watching baseball instead of working on screenplays he’s been there to write (the infamous “Confederacy of the Dunces” was one of these scripts).
You get to see a successful filmmaker sort of lose his direction in life and regain it. He had just made his first film all over again in “Schizopolis.” This weird, uneven, experimental film starring himself would be the undoing of a career today, but back then, it only made the bulletproof Soderbergh more powerful.
I mentioned this was a half diary. The other half are interviews with director, Richard Lester (most famous for “Hard Day’s Night” and “Superman II”). Although not as fascinating as the other portions of the book, it is rare to have a successful director from one era discuss filmmaking from another, like “Hitchock/Truffaut.” It’s even more rare in that Lester is not a legend or a director generally discussed in the pantheon of cinema. It was however Lester’s job to direct movies and he was working regularly. His anecdotes (particular the ones about “Superman II”) are fascinating reads.
Soderbergh saw himself in Lester and wrapped this phase of his career being a hired gun. Not completely, but mostly. Eventually, he would expand again, but this book speaks to his 1995 experience, when even admitting to being just a “hired gun” was rebellious, when everyone fancied himself an artist. A natural contrarian (and man who equaled screenwriting to pulling his fingernails), the need to become a “hired gun” would be a wish he fulfilled in spades.
Although I wouldn’t say, Soderbergh aspired to be less, he certainly treated the next phase of his career differently than his first, directing big Hollywood projects, tent-poles, sequels (Ocean’s 11, 12, 13) as well as continuing to do art films (The Girlfriend Experience) and even microbudget efforts (Bubble). Soderbergh is sort of the Madonna of directors. Madonna didn’t have the greatest voice, or wasn’t the most talented singer, but she knew how to put on a show, change her image frequently, and toy with themes that spoke to her audience, catapulting herself to the height of the music industry. That’s pretty much what happened to Soderbergh.
Written by: Norith Soth