It's safe to say that Steven Soderbergh is not retiring. If anything, the American filmmaker – who is now saying publicly that he may take a sabbatical of some year's length in the future to recharge his creative battery – is on a quest to make prolific British counterpart Michael Winterbottom appear stagnant. Having walked away from a remake of slick 1960s spy series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with former producing partner George Clooney, Soderbergh is now setting up a thriller set in the pharmaceutical industry.
To be written by Scott Burns, who penned The Informant! and recent standout Contagion for Soderbergh, The Bitter Pill adds to a serious schedule of work from the director who broke through with Sex, Lies, and Videotape in 1989. Soderbergh already has Haywire, an espionage action flick that has former mixed martial arts champion Gina Carano turning the tables on the likes of Ewan McGregor, Michael Fassbender and Michael Douglas, and the abs-centric male stripper flick Magic Mike, with Matthew McConaughey, Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer, scheduled for 2012.
That leaves The Bitter Pill to join a Liberace biopic, with Douglas as the closeted pianist and Matt Damon as his lover, in 2013. The wild card in all this – because obviously every major director already releases two features a year – is The Last I Saw Michael Gregg, the movie Soderbergh reportedly made in Sydney in 2009 when he was directing a Sydney Theatre Company production. Morning rehearsals went so well that digital convert Soderbergh pulled out a camera in the afternoons, drafting in Essie Davis, Rhys Muldoon and Cate Blanchett for an unknown storyline.
Essie Davis was a standout in the just finished local small screen adaptation The Slap, which used Brendan Cowell not just in the supporting cast for an episode but also as one of several screenwriters. The ruminative actor and writer, who starred in Beneath Hill 60 and I Love You Too in 2010, returns to the cinema with the Australian comedy Save Your Legs! Co-starring Stephen Curry (The Cup) and Damon Gameau (Balibo), it's the story of three friends who try to stave off the onset of adult responsibility by taking their suburban cricket team on a tour of India. Cowell also put together the screenplay, while first-time feature director Boyd Hicklin will be behind the camera.
Some sympathy, please, for Robert Wieckiewicz, who will be playing Lech Walesa, the Gdansk shipyard electrician who became the leader of an illegal strike in Poland in 1980 that ended up bringing down communist rule in the country. Walesa, now 68, is revered in his homeland, ending up President of a country that once instituted martial law to gaol him. The Walesa biopic will be directed by the country's greatest living director, Andrzej Wajda (Danton, Katyn). At a press conference the 85-year-old master described the project as “the most difficult movie I have made in my life”.