Last time I combined news about my two favorite directors currently working, Steven Soderbergh and Woody Allen, the result was a smashing success, in that the piece actually got commented on and it wasn’t immediately pushed off the top spot of this site by something else. So, I’ve decided to do it again.
Retirement from feature films must have been an awfully boring thing for Steven Soderbergh, considering how much effort he’s put into putting that retirement behind him. Currently, he has two films in the pipeline; one, Mosaic, is in the can and ready to premiere on HBO next year, while the other, Logan Lucky, is in pre-production, also looking at a 2017 release date, and is racking up a great cast. But if you think a little thing like “I’m already knee-deep in one movie” would stop Soderbergh from beginning to discuss his next project, you have a whole other thing coming, because before the cameras even start rolling on Logan Lucky, we know what Soderbergh’s next move might be.
Deadline reports that Soderbergh will definitely be producing and probably be directing a film about the Panama Papers, a massive leak of documents from a Panama law firm which revealed the financial misdoings of celebrities (including Emma Watson, Pedro Almodovar, and Jackie Chan) and world leaders alike (the Prime Minister of Iceland resigned after the Papers revealed that he sold half of an offshore company to his wife to avoid having his ownership of the company be deemed a conflict of interest). This is, in and of itself, very good news. God knows Soderbergh has a knack for this kind of large-scale, based-in-facts drama (I’m speaking, of course, of Magic Mike). But really, Soderbergh may only be half of what makes this a very intriguing project. The other half is its writer (adapting the unpublished book on the subject, Secrecy World), none other than Scott Z. Burns. Burns most recently was the showrunner of Vinyl for maybe three days before HBO dropped the shithammer on it, two-season commitment be damned, but he’s most beloved by me for his previous work with Soderbergh. Together, they made The Informant! (an already-compelling whistleblower movie made something special by Soderbergh and Burns monkeying around with form), Contagion (a harrowing, detail-by-detail look at a global pandemic), and Side Effects (a wonderful piece of trash pretending to be a Big Pharma commentary), three excellent films that all point to Soderbergh-Burns as the ideal duo for a project this (presumably) sprawling and details-filled (not that I wouldn’t pay good money for a version directed by Soderbergh and written by Lem Dobbs, of course).
The film will be produced by Anonymous Content (Oscar-winners this year for Spotlight) and new production company Grey Matter Productions (whose only current upcoming project is Lights Out, which doesn’t really have the tone I assume Soderbergh will be going for here, unless there’s a scene where the Prime Minister of Iceland haunts the shit out of the houses of the people who leaked the Papers). There’s no word on any cast thus far, but I can only imagine Matt Damon will be playing every part.
Speaking of casting, since we last heard from “guy who should really play Maxine Tarnow’s dad in an adaptation of Bleeding Edge” Woody Allen, he was casting his next film, giving Kate Winslet (the original Nola in Match Point) a role in it. Well, now he’s cast three other actors in it (apparently comprising, with Winslet, the entire main cast), and they’re just a bit more surprising picks than Winslet, I’ll leave it at that.
Yesterday, news broke that none other than official Community-sanctioned punching bag Jim Belushi would also be in the film, which was revealed to be a period piece drama set in the 1950s (this makes the film Allen’s third period piece in a row, after Cafe Society and his Amazon TV show). This raises some understandable questions. Allen often courts the biggest stars and the best actors to appear in his movies. Jim Belushi, bless his heart (he was genuinely good in Thief), is neither of those things. I’ve heard that he’s very good in Show Me a Hero, and I certainly believe them, but still, this is a pretty oddball pick. I’m sure he’ll give a great performance, though, just like fellow “wait, what the fuck?” pick Andrew Dice Clay before him. A less bizarre casting choice was announced today, when Juno Temple was confirmed to be in the film as well. Temple, as is seeming to be a pattern in all these Allen/Soderbergh stories, wasted her time on Vinyl recently, having done great work on films as disparate as The Dark Knight Rises, Magic Magic, Killer Joe, and Far From the Madding Crowd. But Temple was sadly very quickly overshadowed by the next casting choice, a man with even more star power than the Belush. I’m speaking of Justin Timberlake. After JT revealed some serious acting chops as a result of his part in The Social Network, he’s mostly let them atrophy, outside of his part in Inside Llewyn Davis. It’ll be exciting to see them back in use here, and maybe even more exciting to see what got Allen to cast Timberlake (I’m sure he’s seen The Social Network like everyone else, but goddamned if I don’t hope his decision was solely spawned by repeated listens to “SexyBack”).
This cast will be the first time since Magic in the Moonlight that Allen will be working solely with first-time collaborators on the acting side. This, of course, means that Allen, under law, has to hire a frequent collaborator as his DoP, to mitigate the effects of working with so many new faces. But who will it be? The people need to know, Woody, I don’t know why you insist on not telling us. Is it because they’re named in the Panama Papers, Woody? Are my favorite cinematographers problematic too now? GODDAMNIT WOODY I HAVE A HARD ENOUGH TIME DEFENDING YOU I DON’T NEED THIS RIGHT NOW.