Steven Soderbergh continues his quest to be the Jay-Z of independent filmmaking, announcing his retirement in no uncertain terms and then suddenly getting busier than ever—and even doing some nauseating things with Gwyneth Paltrow. The last couple of weeks have seen near-daily casting reports of all the torsos who will fill out his male stripper drama Magic Mike (a roster that now includes Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, Matthew Bomer, Alex Pettyfer, and William Levy), surprise drop-ins on the set of The Hunger Games, and of course, promotion for the upcoming Haywire and Contagion, an industriousness that would seem to reinforce Soderbergh’s recent assertion that said “retirement” rumors were nothing more than Matt Damon babbling like a “14-year-old girl” who got into her parents’ Schnapps.
But then he goes and falls back into old patterns in interviews like this one in the New York Times, where he says he really is going to pursue a career in painting. And suddenly Soderbergh’s “retirement” once again seems like a certainty, albeit one that still has frustrating caveats. “I'm interested in exploring another art form while I have the time and ability to do so,” Soderbergh says—which, okay then, it sounds like he’s definitely serious about retiring. Yet then he adds, “I'll be the first person to say if I can't be any good at it and run out of money I'll be back making another Ocean's movie”—which is far more nebulous and annoying. What remains clear is that Soderbergh still has to finish Magic Mike, his Liberace biopic, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. before he finally has to make up his mind, and so we have at least couple more years of stories like these.
Incidentally, Soderbergh will be doing that last one without George Clooney, who recently dropped out of the stunt-heavy project due to the lingering back injuries he sustained on Syriana. But don’t worry: No doubt those two will still get to work together again, somewhere around Soderbergh’s second or third retirement. Maybe on that one he’ll say he’s leaving filmmaking to do something more fun, like becoming a tugboat captain?