True Hollywood Stories

Books About Film

True Hollywood Stories

Getting Away With It, Or: The Further Adventures of the Luckiest Bastard You Ever Saw (Also Starring Richard Lester as the Man Who Knew More Than He Was Asked)

by Steven Soderbergh

Faber and Faber Inc., 216 pp., $18 (paper)

"Who knew that Steven Soderbergh was one of the great comic actors of our time?" I asked in a 1997 review of the director's odd, experimental film exercise Schizopolis. Soderbergh starred in Schizpolis' feature-length ambush of narrative expectations. It was a super-low-budget and super-personal project the director indulged in during a 1995 ebb in his astonishing career, which began with his 1989 film sex, lies & videotape -- a film that almost singlehandedly catapulted the Sundance Film Festival and independent filmmaking into the popular imagination -- and peaks with the current success of his past year, which started with the abundantly popular Julia Roberts vehicle Erin Brockovich and is now ending with Traffic, a scabrously incisive study of hypocrisy and the war on drugs. Getting Away With It, which has just been published in the States in paperback, was written between 1996 and 1997, although "written" is not really the most accurate word to describe this book's creative formula. The full title gives some indication of this book's picaresque attitude and humorous slant. It consists of journal entries from Soderbergh's diary during which he juggles numerous projects, scripts, meetings, and aspirations. Interspersed with the personal diary are transcripts of interviews Soderbergh conducted over time with British film director Richard Lester, whose numerous credits include Help!, A Hard Day's Night, Petulia, How I Won the War, and The Knack. Getting Away With It provides few clues regarding the details of these interviews -- the how, when, where, and why of their process. The book, in fact, begins in mid-sentence, as if posting a warning to all who might enter its pages. But like Soderbergh, Lester proves an interesting subject -- both were successful at an early age, are brilliant film editors, insidious comic artists, and borderline members of the studio system. Getting Away With It shows both men to be honest tradesmen trying to forge ahead in a charlatan's world. Both use comedy as windmill-tilting sabers. And both men are perpetually in search of the filmmaking "knack" and how to get it.

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getting away with it, steven soderbergh, richard lester

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