The charismatic star of "Out of Sight" and "Ocean's Eleven" reteams with filmmaker Steven Soderbergh on sci-fi romance "Solaris". He tells BBCi Films about Hollywood, belief, and being naked with his director.
You're renowned as one of Hollywood's most famous letter writers, and it was yet another letter that got you this part...
Well, Steven [Soderbergh] and I are partners [in production company Section 8] and if you're going to ask for something or if you're going to propose something to your partner, in order not to have him look you in the eyes and go, "I don't think you're the right guy for the job," you sort of want a bit of a buffer zone in case it doesn't work out. So I just wrote him a letter and said, "Look, I don't know if you're thinking of me, or if I'm up to the job, but I wanted to officially say: "Listen, no hard feelings if not, but if you think I can do it, I'd do it for free."
The tagline for the movie is "What is Solaris?" So, what is it?
Solaris is... not Uranus. I don't know. It was about questioning pretty much all the major issues, about belief systems and about God and memory and love, and providing absolutely no answers except that every single one of your conclusions would be right as long as you don't force that conclusion on anyone else. That's something that I thought was a really interesting film to make, and complicated too.
How has your creative relationship with Steven Soderbergh developed over the years, and would you have done a nude scene for any director you didn't know quite so well?
I wanted to be nude in front of Steven. It was just a ruse. It was just any opportunity I could get to be 41 and naked. Which I don't recommend. Obviously you do this film with Steven and not other people, because you trust him. Our relationship? There's a lot of spooning that goes on... We've gotten to a place right now where we're having fun. We're getting to play with all the toys in the toy box and they're gonna take all the toys away pretty soon, they always do, but we're having fun right now pushing the envelope, trying to get things made, within the structure of the studio system.
Do you believe in God and an afterlife?
I believe that whatever people believe in is real, that it works as long as you don't force that opinion on anyone else. So that's sort of a difficult question to answer because I know what I think, but I don't really know and I'm still trying to figure it out, I don't have an answer. I believe in the individual. I believe in the individual opinion and soul and all of that.
James Cameron is quoted as saying, "This movie is not an action film and people need to know that when they're going in". Why do you think it is that a lot of American cinemagoers didn't know that going in?
The truth is it was a really brave thing for Fox to do, to make this film. We knew that it was a polarising film, it's not designed to be a blockbuster. The problem is, we were forced into going with the press very quickly, so we weren't really able to sell it as the film that it is, so that the people who go to see it don't go to see a big action film with naked people - which is how it was sold in the States.
That's a problem, because people sit down and they see something completely different and they're ticked off. I understand why it happened. It's unfortunate because what it really does is it forces me to do three days of junkets where every question is, "So did you work out?"
And this isn't a film that I think necessarily is about that, and it sort of trivialises everything that I think Steven did in the film, it trivialises everything I was trying to do in the film, and that's too bad, because what we're trying to do is push the envelope a little bit, with all the things we've been doing lately.