Contagion director Steven Soderbergh has said it, downplayed it, then recently said it again: he's going to retire from filmmaking after his next slate of films, and work in other art forms.
If he does finally go through with it, it would be a terrible loss for movies because Soderbergh has been able to straddle both the mainstream and indie arthouse worlds very well. He isn't afraid of taking chances, who else would make a two part, four hour plus biopic of Che Guevera? I mean, quite a lot of modern day "directors" just want to get paid and laid.
There's definitely something to be said for knowing when to call it a day, and it's terribly disappointing when directors don't have it anymore and just churn out sh*t, but if you've still got the goods, why not still make movies?
Directors like Akira Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman kept making movies late into their lives, and modern examples I can think of who are still making good stuff are Martin Scorsese, who will be 70 next year, David Cronenberg, who's in his late sixties, Steven Spielberg, who will be 65 this year, are just a few who come to mind.
Soderbergh has been able to accomplish what a lot of filmmakers in the '70's tried to do, make one for you, and one for "them." When Coppola made The Godfather, he was hoping that big Hollywood movies would fund his own filmmaking empire.
The filmmaking utopia dream of that decade didn't come true, but again, Sodergbergh has been able to make big studio films, and make his own idiosyncratic movies that won't do any business. He also joked to the New York Times that if his painting career doesn't go well, "[He'll] be the first person to say if I can't be any good at it and run out of money I'll be back making another Ocean's movie."
In addition to the upcoming thriller Contagion, Soderbergh's also got a biopic of Liberace in the works, a spy flick called Haywire, a comedy about a male stripper called Magic Mike starring Channing Tatum, and the big screen version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which was going to star Soderbergh perennial George Clooney, who just dropped out.
Personally I'm hoping Soderbergh's planned retirement will be like Alec Baldwill's threats of retirement and dropping out of this movie and that movie: a bunch of hot air.
With so few real filmmakers out there these days, we really truly need guys like him. The more he makes movies, the less we have to suffer the Brett Ratners, Michael Bays, Joel Schumachers, and McGs of the world.
Update: The 48-year-old director has denied he is permanently retiring, telling reporters (yesterday) at the Venice Film Festival: "It's less dramatic that it sounds - it's just a sabbatical.