Steven Soderbergh

Ocean's Eleven

Interviewed by Anwar Brett

Since winning an Oscar for the drug cartels drama "Traffic" and directing an Oscar-winning performance by Julia Roberts in "Erin Brockovich", Steven Soderbergh has become one of Hollywood's most sought after directors. He tells us what it was like to direct such an A-list cast in the 60s remake of "Ocean's Eleven".

Is it true you were apprehensive about doing "Ocean's Eleven"?

To my mind there is a certain technical standard involved in making a film like this, and I was concerned that I wouldn't measure up, so I made sure that I did a lot of homework. I studied some film makers that I thought were comfortable working in this sort of arena, just in terms of technical skills.

What was your goal with it?

I wanted to see if I could combine two types of films, one that had this elegant, elaborate, technical side but also this casual off-hand quality to the performances - a film that wasn't aggressive. That was the trick, to see if we could find that balance to have it deliver on the big movie side, but make sure that it wasn't mean, that it didn't have male characters that were insulting each other. That it wasn't profane or violent. To my mind that was going to be tricky.

The camaraderie seems very genuine on screen?

We cast it very carefully in every role, choosing people who would add to that good feeling and avoiding people who we felt wouldn't. The best testament to that I can think of is that they never left the set between shots. Whoever was on set that day would remain there, and they'd talk to each other and hang out. Often I'd have to break up the bulls**t sessions so that we could get going. I thought that Carl Reiner being a fellow director would be the most sympathetic to my plight but in fact he was the worst of them. He has some great stories.

Is it hard persuading your stars to share the limelight, taking smaller roles than they might ordinarily take?

I feel that there's no down side to taking a small part if it's a good movie. If you take a small part nobody ever comes back to you and asks you why you did it. It's always a good thing to be part of something that has a good energy about it.