Famous Grouse must be happy with their sponsorship of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. First it was Charlize Theron who quenched her thirst during a Reel Life audience Q&A with a glass of their whisky. Then it was Steven Soderbergh who sat with an entire bottle in front of him during his session on Saturday evening. Mind you, after his travel troubles, he deserved it. With his flight delayed and his luggage lost, the director made it to the Cineworld cinema a mere 47 minutes after touching down at Edinburgh Airport. Seat-of-the-pants stuff, but a bit of a coup for EIFF all the same, as Soderbergh shut down production on Ocean’s Thirteen for a couple of days in order to jet in and out of Scotland solely for this event.
Soderbergh kept fairly tight-lipped about his latest crime caper, only verifying the rumour that Al Pacino was on board to play a “monster” of a bad guy. He was more open about his past career, from the early Sundance and Cannes success of sex, lies & videotape, through his subsequent string of flops, to his career resurrection with Out Of Sight, “the least flawed thing I’d made”. That, of course, was the film that brought him together with George Clooney, at a time when both of them “were considered people who had potential but had not yet delivered on it.” In Edinburgh, Soderbergh confirmed that he and Clooney would be winding up their production company, Section Eight, next March because the workload had grown too heavy and producing other people’s movies had lost its sense of fun.
Recently, of course, Soderbergh has also been his own cinematographer and editor, although he insists that he only wants to see his name once in the credits. He admitted to the Edinburgh audience that DoP ‘Peter Andrews’ contained his dad’s first names while editor ‘Mary Ann Bernard’ slipped in his mum’s maiden name. As if that didn’t keep him busy enough, he also whetted EIFF appetites about DVD commentaries he had recorded with John Boorman (Point Blank) and Mike Nichols (Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?). Soderbergh is a big fan of both filmmakers, but perhaps his fullest praise of the evening was for Cate Blanchett, whom he directed in post-war thriller The Good German. “Very few people are as good at their jobs as her,” he said. “She’s unbelievable. It was what we all kept talking about on the set.”