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When Steven Met Steven: Soderbergh on Jaws, Liberace, Future of Movies

I never get tired of listening to Steven Soderbergh. I hope he writes a giant book someday about film.  He is as much a philosopher as he is an artist.  Somehow, though I’ve been following Soderbergh since he made Sex, Lies and Videotape ( a film I quickly committed to memory and can still quote line for line)  I didn’t know that one of the big quakes in his life was when he saw Jaws in 1978 (a film I also committed to memory and can still quote line for line). If you lived through that summer, if you loved movies, it would have hard to not have been changed.  On Fresh Air, Soderbergh talks to Terry Gross about Liberace, and the reasons he’s decided to spend more time in television and less time in the world of Hollywood. It’s changed, he said.  But he also said that when he saw Jaws he knew he wanted to be a filmmaker:

GROSS: When did you first become aware that there was such a thing as a director and that the director had a lot to do with why you liked a movie when you were watching it?

SODERBERGH: When I was 12.

GROSS: Through watching what?


GROSS: Really? Because of the suspense?

SODERBERGH: Yeah. That was the first that…

GROSS: Because of the way you were…

SODERBERGH: No. It was just I came out of that film in St. Petersburg, Florida, in the summer of 1975, and my relationship to movies had completely changed. I had always seen a lot of films because my father loved movies, but in that two hours and four minutes, they went from something that I used to view as entertainment and became something else. And I had two questions when I came out of that theater. One is, what does directed by mean, exactly? And who is Steven Spielberg? And luckily, there was a book that had been published around the time the movie came out called “The Jaws Log,” which was written by Carl Gottlieb, one of the co-screenwriters, and it turned out to be one of the best making-of books that anybody has ever produced and I bought a copy of that and read it over and over again and highlighted any mention of Steven Spielberg and what that job entailed. And from that point on I realized oh, this is a job, you could have this is as a job.

GROSS: Does Steven Spielberg know this story?

SODERBERGH: I have no idea.

GROSS: So you haven’t had a chance to tell it to him?