Steven Soderbergh On His Kafka Recut

“This isn’t a tweak, it’s triage. It’s going to be bloody”

The new issue of Empire (on shelves tomorrow, Thursday May 30) sees Steven Soderbergh speaking with great candour about his decision to quit feature filmmaking in favour of other creative outlets. He’ll be painting, making television shows, playwriting, selling fine Bolivian spirits, writing books... heck, he’s even finding time to move offices across Manhattan. This man clearly has access to some kind of wormhole.

There’s also a recut of Kafka, ten years in the planning, to attend to. “I’ve got a 35 page fax from (screenwriter) Lem Dobbs about it that I’ve got to wade into at some point,” Soderbergh tells Empire. “Lem and I have had this back and forth because I’m trying to alter the DNA of the whole movie. I think we want to put out a dual Blu-ray with both versions. I’ve been calling the new version the ‘Midnight Edition’ because it’s perfect for Friday or Saturday night shows.”

Kafka, Soderbergh’s sex, lies, and videotape follow-up, was made under the fierce spotlight that came with being a Palme d'Or-winning wunderkind, and its original issues have continued to nag away at the director. An oblique conspiracy thriller starring Jeremy Irons and Alec Guinness, it will get a German-language dub, “probably” a new score and a substantive reworking of the edit. The cuts will, as Soderbergh emphasises, “be bloody”.

“I was frustrated with Kafka – it had a mixed-to-negative reaction when it came out – and I’m trying to completely rethink it in the hopes of at least turning it into something that’s unified. The tone was all over the place – which is the classic young filmmaker’s mistake. I’d like to make it a little more abstract and more of a hardcore art movie. It’s not a tweak: it’s triage.” So a better-director’s cut of a director’s cut? “I hope so. It’s shorter.”

If you’ve listened to Dobbs and Soderbergh’s famously blunt exchanges on The Limey commentary track, you’ll be keen to see the pair reunite for another to put the seal on Kafka 2.0. So is there any chance of writer again chewing out wryly-amused director for crimes against dialogue? “That might be worth doing,” smiles Soderbergh. “Then he’d get to complain about two films for the price of one. That would be spirited.”

Pick up the new issue of Empire, on sale on May 30, for the full Soderbergh exit interview.