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Recently speaking to Rolling Stone in an extensive interview about Magic Mike’s Last Dance — which included an in-depth discussion about the film’s, and Hollywood’s, portrayals of sex, sexuality and consent — director Steven Soderbergh addressed the impact of Salma Hayek Pinault’s replacing Thandiwe Newton in the film, noting of reports on the latter’s departure: “Everything I saw publicly was wrong.”
“Nothing I ever saw was accurate, and there’s really no upside for anybody involved in litigating this or excavating it because I consider it private,” the director said about Newton’s parting ways with the project. “I don’t think anybody sees any benefit in running through this publicly. It becomes something you can’t control. Right now, to keep it private means all of us can control it, and I think that’s where it should sit for the time being.”
Hayek Pinault stepped into the role Newton vacated, helping the team adjust for the film’s more female-focused point of view. Soderbergh specifically unpacked how the movie’s intricate and intense opening sequence came together, noting that she reinforced that at some point, her character needed “to take it over” and “drive” her interaction with star Channing Tatum.
Hayek Pinault’s arrival also changed the dynamic of the mother-daughter relationship in the film. Following Newton’s departure, the actress who was to play her daughter stayed on, and the relationship was rewritten from biological to adoptive.
“I think it played to the dynamic she has with her daughter and resulted in one of my favorite lines in the whole movie — when she says, ‘Mom.’ Now I look at it and go, that’s how it always should have been,” he said. “We had to recalibrate. There’s no question. We all spent hours and hours in rooms rebuilding it, rethinking it to make it specific. At a certain point, you have to surrender to what the cinema gods want for you.”
At another point in the interview, Soderbergh explained why his list of what he watched and read in 2022 doesn’t include any superhero titles. The director emphasized that he has “no philosophical issue with those movies” and is “agnostic about them.” But as someone who didn’t grow up with comic books or isn’t into fantasy, he’s not their audience and has never been. While they’re not of particular interest, he did express an understanding of what’s required to make them.
“I can tell you right now, just as a filmmaker, they’re really tough movies to make in terms of the stamina required,” he told the magazine. “That shit’s hard. I couldn’t do it.”
As for their impact on the state of theatrical releases, the Magic Mike director doesn’t fault superhero movies for the declining box office of adult movie fare. Nor does he believe exhibitors are the villains, even as Marvel sequels take up ever larger chunks of showtimes at theaters across the country.
“The issue of what happens to the audience is truly a chicken-and-the-egg thing. The reason they are pushing other movies off the screen — mid-level adult dramas for grownups — is because people are spending more money to see those movies than mid-level adult dramas,” he said. “The exhibitors are just trying to survive, which is becoming increasingly difficult for them, so it’s this weird mélange of forces, both economic and cultural, that have landed us here.”
He expressed hope though, saying that even as he laments whether the state of theatrical is “stuck here” topically, there is someone out there making a movie “that’s gonna come out six months or a year from now that’s gonna invert the trajectory we think we’ve been on, and things will start moving in another direction.”
“I always believe in the ability of filmmakers to turn the direction of the industry around,” he added. “I believe in artists’ ability to figure shit out.”
Weighing in on another big trend — the state of awards shows — Soderbergh, who produced the 2021 Oscars, noted that this year’s nominated class leaves little room for people to complain that the Academy “didn’t nominate any popular movies!”
“So, we’ll find out if that’s really the issue or if it’s a deeper philosophical problem, which is the fact that movies don’t occupy the same cultural real estate that they used to,” he added. “In cultural terms, they don’t matter in the same way that they did twenty years ago. As a result, especially for younger viewers, it’s not as compelling as it once was. They’re going to learn a lot this year. We all will.”
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