Soderbergh’s funny rejoinder about Dobbs “missing” the deleted scene (“I’ll send it to you”) is his favorite way of playing defense throughout the commentary, but the great thing about Soderbergh—the wonkiest of wonky directors—is that he enjoys the intellectual calisthenics of sparring with a tough opponent like Dobbs. And as feisty as he is, Dobbs seems to be having a blast, too. From their exchanges come some keen insights into what happens to scripts when they’re recast through a director’s sensibility, transformed by the actors, and altered by the vast accumulation of decisions made during production and in the editing room. Soderbergh likens it to a grade-school game of “telephone,” where one kid whispers a thought to the next kid in a group, and by the time the message circles around the room, it’s been changed completely. It may be going too far to refer to the screenplay as merely the “blueprint” for a film; after all, the writer is responsible for creating the characters, the story, and a wealth of incidental detail in the margins. But the movie Dobbs imagined—with its emphasis on family ties and connections, and more fully explicated characters across the board—isn’t the movie Soderbergh decided to make. Ironically, one brilliant sequence that did survive the transition completely unchanged was an offscreen shootout that critics widely attributed to Soderbergh! Here’s Dobbs again:


The commentary is full of animated outbursts like that from Dobbs, who gives voice to the multitude of disgruntled writers who aren’t acknowledged for their contributions, are wrongly blamed for decisions they didn’t make, and generally get disrespected in favor of the vaunted auteur. (“Now we know why the Writers Guild is always going on strike,” jokes Soderbergh. “They’re filled with people like Lem.”) And yet, over the course of the commentary, it becomes clearer why films are talked about in terms of their directors instead of their writers. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that Soderbergh was at war with this material; Dobbs is a writer he clearly respects, and had worked with before on Kafka. But the decisions made in the production and post-production phases were Soderbergh’s alone, and those decisions (the use of repetition and overlapping time frames, the focus on Stamp’s relationship with his daughter, and even something as minor as where to place a framed photo in a hallway) resulted in a much different film than Dobbs imagined. Here’s what Soderbergh had to say about it from our interview:

"You know, there are problems with my movies. It's not like he's imagining things. But I think our tastes are a little different, and I think… it's not an excuse, but I keep telling him, "You need to go make a movie. Because you will then either have a lot more or a lot less respect for what I do, because right now, you have the best of all worlds. You just get to sit back and take shots at me from the roof of a building, while I'm down in the courtyard."


The lesson to take away from the Limey commentary is this: When a director and a writer have competing visions for a film, the writer always loses. And when a director and a writer have compatible visions for a film, the writer still loses, because two people are never going to imagine a movie in precisely the same way. As Dobbs admits upfront, it’s “a hopeless profession,” but what makes The Limey commentary so fascinating—and as compelling as the movie itself, which is one of Soderbergh’s best—is that the push-and-pull of the process is right out there in the open, ready to be fought over. If only all filmmakers were so candid.

Coming Up:

Next week: Eyes Wide Shut

Feb. 26: Heavenly Creatures

Mar. 5: Femme Fatale

Mar. 12: Beau Travail