So much of this film plays without dialogue and instead makes use of a lot of music. How did that aesthetic happen?
SODERBERGH: A lot of people that make movies forget that a movie should work with the sound off. You should be able to watch a movie without the sound and understand what’s going on. Your job is to build a series of chronological images that tell the story. I’m frustrated when I see movies in which I feel like the plot is being told to me, instead of being shown to me. I also like to stage scenes in which you see a lot of people in the frame at once, so physicality becomes a really important part of that aesthetic. I need actors who understand how to use their bodies ‘cause the shot is going to be up there for awhile and you’re going to see them, if not full length, probably down to the thigh, so all of that stuff becomes really important. Sometimes I’m choreographing moves with the camera, with moves that they’re doing. Their sense of having to dance a little bit with the camera needs to be pretty pronounced. In this case, everybody fell into that very quickly and understood what I was trying to do.
What was the process of preparation like for this?
SODERBERGH: I can tell you that this cast was so disciplined. They ate like rabbits. It was lettuce with lemon juice on it. Honestly, I’ve worked on movies with a lot of women who look great and take care of themselves, but I’ve never seen this kind of diligence. Maybe it was just fear. But, I didn’t sense any competition because the fear of doing it bonded them really quickly. They were all jumping out of the plane together. As soon as I saw the routines for the first time, I knew we were going to be fine because they were funny. They weren’t dirty, they were fun.
Did you have a process for choosing the thongs for each character?
SODERBERGH: As you can imagine, it was a very personal process. I know what I like, so it didn’t take long, at all. When you go in the thong shop, you do have to make decisions about which ones you’re going to pick, but it’s pretty easy to eliminate 99% of what’s hanging on these racks ‘cause they’re just silly or ugly. I think we were trying to find this balance. There’s a very dark version of this movie to be made, but at the end of the day, we wanted this to be fun. Whether it was the costumes or the routines or just the way that people were interacting with each other, we wanted to find this line where you were smiling, as opposed to being disgusted. We were constantly surfing that.
This is a movie about entertainers caught in the struggle between art and commerce. How deliberate was that theme and how much would you like the audience to think about that?
SODERBERGH: I wanted to make sure that there were a lot of conversations in the movie about money and work because I feel like, for most people, these are issues that dominate their lives, especially lately. We were always looking for ways to bring that conversation into the film. The most obvious example is when Chan goes to the bank to try to get a loan. I think this issue of what you’re willing to do to be paid is interesting. At a certain point, Mike starts to feel that what he’s doing is undervalued and he has to make a decision about whether he can accept that, and I think everybody has been in a situation where they have felt undervalued, at a certain point, and they have to make a decision about how they’re going to express that or whether they’re going to express it. I think it’s a very relatable issue.
There are a lot of dance montages in the movie. Will the full numbers be on the DVD?
SODERBERGH: We have edited together the full-length versions of all the routines. Honestly, they’re that pretty disturbing! We sent them all to Sue Kroll at Warner Bros. and she said, “I really like these a lot!” I think it’s not for men. It made me really uncomfortable to watch them. We did 10 or 12, and to watch them all, back-to-back, was really disturbing. (via Collider)