Steven Soderbergh's back to get Lucky

Acclaimed US director makes big-screen return

After directing era-defining films for nearly three decades, Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh surprised Hollywood four years ago when he announced his retirement from film-making.

Switching gears, Soderbergh shifted his focus to TV and won two Emmys for HBO's Behind The Candelabra and two Emmy nominations for directing the acclaimed series The Knick.

Logan Lucky, which opens here on  Sept 7, marks his return to the big screen, a decision he ascribes to "a convergence of a couple of things, one technological, and one creative".

"On the technological front," he said, "We're reaching a point in the digital landscape where a small company can put a movie into wide release without involvement from major studios."

The screenplay, given to him by his wife Jules Asner, was written by their friend Rebecca Blunt. "I was initially asked to help find a director for the script but I was very excited by what I read," said Soderbergh.

"After a couple of weeks, I admitted that I really didn't want anybody else to direct Logan Lucky because I saw the movie very clearly from what was on the page. It's kind of a cousin to an Ocean's film, but it's also an inversion of those movies because these characters have no money and no technology. They live in very pressured economic circumstances, so a couple of garbage bags full of cash can turn their lives around.

"I also like the fact that when the movie starts out, these characters are not criminals."

The story revolves around brothers Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde (Adam Driver) who, in a bid to reverse a family curse, set out to pull off an elaborate heist during the legendary Coca-Cola 600 auto race. To help them break into the track's underground cash-handling system, Jimmy recruits volatile demolition expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig).

Soderbergh, who had worked with Tatum on Magic Mike and its sequel, saw the actor as a natural for the role. "Chan's got this everyman quality that's very genuine," he said.

I also like the fact that when the movie starts out, these characters are not criminals. Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh

"He seems like a guy who not only would be fun to hang out with but who would totally have your back if something went sideways."

Soderbergh said he always pictured Driver as the lugubrious West Virginia bartender with a prosthetic limb.

"Like most people, I first saw Adam on Girls," Soderbergh said. "I immediately watched everything else he did and realised, 'This kid's really good.'"

Soderbergh, who first met Craig while producing the 2005 movie The Jacket, sensed that the British actor would be up for the standout supporting role.

"Daniel and I have run into each other over the years so I e-mailed him the script and said, 'I think I may have something for you.' The next morning I got an e-mail back from him saying, 'This is great.'

"I had a feeling Daniel would respond to it because Joe Bang is arguably the best part in the film. He gets all the fun lines and does a bunch of fun stuff for a third of the film without having to shoulder all the responsibility of a lead role."

Soderbergh said the actors' off-camera rapport translated into on-screen chemistry.

"They basically formed a gang, which really comes across when you're setting up scenes. Everybody feels like it's a safe place to try stuff... because you know everyone's in the same boat and rowing in the same direction."