After dealing with drug cartels in ”Traffic” and corporate polluters in ”Erin Brockovich,” Steven Soderbergh is officially on a fluff break, remaking a light Rat Pack snack from 1960 about pals who knock off five Las Vegas casinos in a single night. ”I really wanted to make a movie with absolutely no social importance whatsoever, that has no mission other than to be pleasurable to watch,” says the guy who took home the Best Director trophy for ”Traffic” at the last Oscars. Of course, the most pleasurable things to watch in the original ”Ocean’s 11” — Frank, Dean, and Sammy — weren’t available to whistle that jazzy theme music this time around, so Soderbergh had to settle for George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Julia Roberts. (The last surviving Rat, Joey Bishop, declined a cameo, although Angie Dickinson, who played Sinatra’s ex-wife, will pop up in one scene.)
”George is sort of the Frank Sinatra character, and I’m his right-hand man, kind of like Dean Martin without the highball,” says Pitt. ”But it’s a totally different movie than the first one.” Well, not totally: The plot still revolves around an elaborate Vegas caper, except just three casinos are plundered (the Mirage, Bellagio, and MGM Grand, in a curious bit of ”rob us!” product placement), and the burglars don’t periodically sit down at a piano to break into boozy ballads. ”Also, the technology they use to pull it off is different,” adds producer Jerry Weintraub, who first suggested the remake. ”I never thought the original ”Ocean’s 11” was that great. It missed on a lot of levels. But a heist movie in Vegas is a fantastic idea, because Vegas is always robbing everyone else.”
Everyone, it turns out, but Pitt, who made up for some of the salary cut he (along with his costars) took by spending his off-hours at the blackjack tables. ”I walked out a winner,” he reports. ”I did all right.” Lucky devil.