Soderbergh says that because of the wild nature of the script — you really won’t see where this one is going — he needed to use a cool, naturalistic style that makes everything seem plausible.
“I had to keep in mind that all the choices I was making — how I was shooting, how I was pitching the performances, even the score — were reverse-engineering from where the movie was going to land. I wanted to make sure the viewer would be in the right emotional space at the end of the movie, because this film morphs in a couple of different ways. It starts off as Movie A, then it turns into Movie B, then it turns into Movie C. While that’s all going on, Rooney is the lead character and then halfway through Jude becomes the lead character. All those things have to work in a way that don’t feel too visible, so that meant I had to back off a little bit directorially, so people aren’t thinking about what I’m doing. If you’re somewhat cine-literate, you can see what I’m doing. But the general audience is just watching the characters and following the plot, and I don’t get in the way of that.”
With a thriller as daring as Side Effects, Soderbergh said, he just had to trust the material and push ahead, not really knowing if the movie was working until it was finished and he could screen it for friends.
“The hardest part in the entire process of making this movie was the first 35 minutes — getting the balance and pace of it right, making sure that the right information was released in the right time in the right way. Once you’re past the 35-minute mark, the movie settles on a track and heads off in a certain direction at a certain speed. So I had to be very particular about that first half-hour. I had as many different versions of those first 35 minutes as any movie I’ve ever made. We went through a lot of trial and error, a lot of screenings, to make sure we were doing it right and playing fair with the story. It was really tricky.”
Miraculously, the trailers and TV ads for Side Effects don’t spoil any of the film’s surprises. Even early reviews have been careful to dance around plot descriptions and not give anything away.
“People who have seen it are recognizing it is not cool to spoil the movie for their friends,” he says. “Why would you betray them and ruin the experience for them? It’s so hard, because how do you convince people to go see a movie without knowing anything about it? I’ve gotten to the point where I’m even telling people ‘Don’t watch the TV spots!’ If you go in completely cold, you’re going to have a very good time.”