Even the ‘Presence’ Cast Are in Awe of How Lightning Quick Steven Soderbergh Works | Video

Sundance 2024: The filmmaker shot his unique ghost story under a shroud of secrecy, doing only “two takes max” for each shot

No one in Hollywood works quite like Steven Soderbergh, and that’s something the members of the cast of his new film “Presence,” who weren’t used to his deeply collaborative but rapid-fire style of directing, quickly found out.

The cast of “Presence” — Lucy Liu, Julia Fox, Chris Sullivan, Callina Liang, Eddy Maday and West Mullholland — talked to TheWrap about working under the shroud of secrecy on this ghost story in which the camera shows the perspective of the ghostly presence inhabiting a house bought by a new family.

“I was so terrified to have the script go out…people on the team would ask if they could read the script and I said ‘no,’” Liu said at TheWrap’s Sundance Portrait and Interview Studio presented by NFP. “I never told anyone I was doing it. There’s something about having something shrouded with a group of people that you’re working with that makes it special. It’s your own canvas and you work on it, and whatever [Soderbergh] wants to do with it, he can.”

Sullivan, who worked with Soderbergh on the Cinemax series “The Knick,” recalled how prior to working on that show, the director gave him and his co-stars a heads up about how he works on set.

“The only thing he said to all of us was ‘Be ready. I shoot very fast. Have your lines memorized.’ And that remains to be true,” he said. “It was so much fun to get to work with him again, but to also see others experience that for the first time.”

The cast said that “Presence” was shot in just 11 days last September, with the only public sign of its production being the interim agreement Soderbergh and producer Michael Sugar signed with SAG-AFTRA to allow the indie project to be done during the actors’ strike. Several of those shoot days were half-days and cast member Julia Fox was stunned at the speed.

“He gets his shot in one take, two takes, max,” she said. “He knows what he’s looking for. He’s editing, he’s holding the camera and getting all these crazy angles. He’s such a pro.”

“I texted him the day we wrapped and I just thanked him again for having me,” Sullivan recalled. “I said, ‘I can’t wait to see what you put together’ and he responded, ‘Oh, it’s done!’”

As surprising as the pace was, West Mullholland said it actually became a liberating feeling to know that Soderbergh trusts his actors so much that he doesn’t need to do multiple takes to give himself options during editing.

“He’s so certain of himself and what we got that once you understand that it’s so rewarding as an actor to hear him say, ‘You got it, good job, moving on to the next,’” he said.

Watch the interview with the “Presence” cast in the clip above.

“Presence” is a sales title at Sundance.

Check out all our Sundance coverage here


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