Why does everyone want to work with Steven Soderbergh?
Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, Jon Hamm, Amy Seimetz, Brendan Fraser, and other stars of the director's new film No Sudden Move talk about the appeal of being on-set with Soderbergh.
Steven Soderbergh has repeatedly been able to gather all-star casts on movies like Ocean's Eleven, Contagion, and Logan Lucky, with many actors more than happy to work for the filmmaker on multiple occasions. The director's new film, the twisty, period crime tale No Sudden Move (out on HBO Max, July 1), for example, features numerous notable Soderbergh veterans including Don Cheadle, Benicio del Toro, and Bill Duke as well as new acting recruits Ray Liotta, Jon Hamm, Amy Seimetz, Noah Jupe, and Frankie Shaw.
Why do well-known thesps so love working with the director? We asked the cast of No Sudden Move to clue us in.
DON CHEADLE: When we shot one of the Ocean's movies, I think it was the second one, when we all hadn't been together for a long time, we spent about an hour just talking, the actors getting reacquainted with each other. We realized at some point, like when your teacher just stands at the front of the room and waits until everybody is quiet, that Steven wasn't saying anything, and we all kind of got quiet and settled down. He said, "Is that where you guys want to be standing?" We kind of said, "Well, yeah." And he said, "Okay, go to lunch." When we came back after lunch, on the ground were different colored chalk marks with camera angles and lenses and pans. He had Beautiful Mind-ed the whole thing out own on the floor. And that's what we shot. He's on a different level with that stuff. He knows what he wants and that's why you get home early because he doesn't need to spend a bunch of time figuring it out. He's figured it out.
AMY SEIMETZ: I've known Steven now for, god, seven, eight years. I'd directed The Girlfriend Experience, the show based on his movie, and so we've been buddies for a long time but also, I guess, colleagues. I guess he was my boss but it didn't ever feel like that. [Laughs] Technically, he could have fired me at some point is basically what I'm saying. But he never made it feel that way and this goes into how he makes it feel on set too. When he asked for me to read the script I was actually surprised. I was like, you want me to act for you now? I was like, this is going to be so weird, because actually, we argue as directors, in a good way, in a healthy creative-spirit way. But I was excited about it. I thought it was going to be something I was doing for free where it was like an experiment Steven was doing, because he's known for doing that, and I was happy to just do that.
FRANKIE SHAW: I too have development with Steven. We actually have a TV show that I'm directing the pilot of at HBO Max that someone's writing right now and we have some other stuff as creators. I feel lucky to have him as this sort of mentor but someone who wants to know your opinion about things too, even though he's this great master filmmaker. He's very jokey and fun to collaborate with. There was this one project that we were talking about and I was like, "Well, as long as it's not shot on the iPhone!" and he was like, 'No, it's going to be shot on the Samsung.' When he sent me this, I mean, I didn't even read it, I was like, "Yes. When and where? Thank you."
BILL DUKE: I'd worked with Steven two times before and I was looking forward to working with him [again]. One of the things I loved about the script, it's a mystery gangster film, but also humanity's there.
BRENDAN FRASER: It's my second time working with him, but the first was in the early '90s (on the TV show Fallen Angels), so it was nice to see him again. I was hooked because I love a good gangster movie, and this has a flavorful cast, and I was impressed by the deeper themes of what was really at stake. I love film noir and it's something that Steven Soderbergh excels at. The crew that surrounds Steven have worked with him many times [and] are as cohesive as a submarine crew in how they read one another's minds. They're so talented, so we moved quickly, and it felt like film noir in that we were working with available daylight very often, with just augmenting lamps, so we could get a lot done. And that's really saying something when you're in a piece that's as period-authentic as this, to my eyes, appears to be, right down to the eyeglasses, to the cars, to the houses.
DUKE: In terms of working with Steven, there weren't many takes.
FRASER: Exactly! [Laughs]
DUKE: Sometimes, one take.
FRASER: Yeah. "Did everyone say their line?" "Yes." "Good. Moving on..."
DUKE: "Bye! Bye!"
JON HAMM: Ed Solomon wrote an amazing script. It's complicated, it's advanced, it's adult, and it's based on real events. Steven made a film that's essentially a heist film about the development of the catalytic converter, which sounds absurd to say it out loud, but that's what it is. He ties in the development of the interstate system and the car culture in the United States and how that destroyed lower-income neighborhoods to build the freeways. There's so many levels that this movie connects with to look at the development of American post-war society. It's ambitious. That's the exciting thing about it. I think that's why it resonates on so many levels. So, yeah, I was very happy that I was asked to be a part of it. It definitely engenders a deep dive onto Wikipedia, for sure.
NOAH JUPE: What I liked [about the script] was, you can sit there probably for hours studying every single scene, every single line, to find little hidden intricacies. But what struck me was the underlying story, this journey that went through the entire piece, and everyone connects to that. Whether you understand who's who and who's on what side, there is an underlying emotion behind it which I was really attracted to.
HAMM: What Steven does so well in all of his films is create an atmosphere of indecision and murkiness and my character [in No Sudden Move] is a perfect example of that. He's ostensibly a lawman and yet it's very much a doubt who he's working for, and that extends almost to the last frame of the film. So that's fun. The fact that it's not spoon-fed to you is very interesting to me.
SEIMETZ: You go home early! [Laughs] Honestly, I would do it any time he asked me, because it's really humane. He respects [you], not just actors, but the crew. He knows they have families and they're going to go home to their families. I appreciate that and respect that so much, having been on tons of sets where you're doing 15-hour days. He just knows what he wants and he's so efficient. He's as much a creature of efficiency as he is of creativity. I don't know how much he'll appreciate me calling him a creature, but… [Laughs]
SHAW: He'll probably like that. He might take that as a compliment.
RAY LIOTTA: I wanted to work with him just because he's a great director. He's done a lot of different genres, which is unusual in this day and age, and really admired his work, so I just wanted to work with him. As soon as he asked, I said yes. It was great. He's very quiet on the set, and he operates the camera, so he's looking at everything, so that was different. But it's just so nice to get to the top of the building and jump off and you know he's going to catch you.
JULIA FOX: I don't have that much experience, I don't have a lot of references, but on the sets, I have been on, it's doing 25 takes. With Steven, it's like, he knows when he's got it. It could be one take and I'd be like, "Wait, are you sure?" And he'd be like, "You did great, just don't worry, we got it." He knew when he got it. You feel, if he says we got it, we got it, I trust him. You know, it's Steven Soderbergh! So if he's saying it's good, I just need to put my insecurities aside and trust that he knows what he's doing.
LIOTTA: To Julia's point, he'd probably edited the film in his head already, so he knows exactly what pieces he needs. It's just really nice to work with a director who is as good as he is.
CHEADLE: We had a really great cast [on No Sudden Move] and Steven sets the table for us to be able to have these experiences. You definitely feel you're secure and you feel you have the environment that's going to allow you to do your best work.
BENICIO DEL TORO: Well, he gets you home early! You know, it's incredible. He's also a master. He's the DP, he's editing the movie as he's shooting it, there's really no fat. But, you know, he'll get you home early. We finished every day around 3.30, 4 o'clock. That was pretty amazing. He knows what he wants and he knows that story really well. He's very flexible to incorporate ideas if he likes them. He's able to collaborate also. So he's very flexible.
CHEADLE: This set was different because it was the first film back for many of us, for nearly all of us, after COVID. Steven worked with the same epidemiology team [from] Wayne State University that he worked with when he did Contagion. He was one of the people who wrote the protocols for the DGA. So you felt you were in good hands. But it was still a bit wild coming back to work with everybody in masks and social distancing and all of that. But he really had a great team, nobody got sick, we were able to get through the shoot in good stead. He's one of the few people that I would have trusted to come back that soon after the epidemic. And, like Benicio says, he gets you home early because he knows what he's doing. He's not meandering. We've both been on sets before where the director is setting up a shot, and starts shooting it, and you realize, oh, he doesn't, or she doesn't, know what the story is. They haven't seen the movie, they haven't watched this whole movie in advance [in their head]. With Steve, you do two takes he's like, "I've got it." You're like,. "Eh…" And he's like, "I got it, I know what I'm going to use, I know what I'm going to need, I got it." Then you see the finished production and you're like, wow, I guess he really did get it!
Watch the trailer for No Sudden Move above.