Soderbergh’s Guevara films

Variety‘s Michael Fleming is reporting that Steven Soderbergh and Benicio del Toro are finally, finally about to begin shooting their long-delayed Che Guevara biopic, for Chrissake. Both of them. And both, for the most part, to be shot in Spanish…hooray for that! (For a while there I thought the linguistic tradition of Richard Fleischer, Jack Palance and Che would make a comeback.)

Soderbergh will shoot the two films — The Argentine and Guerrilla — in Mexico and various South American locations, including Bolivia. Del Toro will play Guevara; Javier Bardem, Franka Potente and Benjamin Bratt have been attached to this thing for eons.
Laura Bickford (Traffic) is producing. The Wild Bunch is the main financier along with Spain-based Morena Films and broadcaster Telecinco. The films will cost a grand total of less than $70 million. Talks are under way with domestic distributors. (James Schamus!) Laura Bickford (Traffic ) is producing.
Both scripts have been written by Peter Buchman, Fleming reports. Buchman and Del Toro have been working with a translator to put the dialogue into Spanish.
The Argentine will begin before the Cuban revolution with Castro, Guevara and a band of exiles reach the Cuban shore from Mexico in 1956. Within two years, they mobilized popular support and an army and toppled the U.S.-friendly regime of dic- tator Fulgencio Batista. Guerrilla begins with Guevara’s trip to New York, where he spoke at the United Nations in 1964 and was celebrated, blah, blah. Soder- bergh has already shot that opening footage with Del Toro and Julia Ormond, who plays TV journo Lisa Howard.

  • NYCBusybody

    Ooooooooooooh, this really sticks in my craw.

  • p.Vice

    What’s up with the “let’s make two movies instead of one” mindset that’s cropped up lately. Soderbergh might want to re-think this after what’s happened to Eastwood in the last few weeks.
    At least he’ll be able to look forward to Jeffrey telling him how to re-edit the movies after the first one comes out.

  • Nicol D

    I want to see the footage of him as a young dental studet with the well-to-do Irish background…y’know the stuff that his supporters don’t want to know about.
    Maybe a scene of the young Che looking at bicuspids for cavities or something.
    Or howabout the scenes of him becoming physically aroused as he watches his political opponents get their brains blown out, as many who were with him have testified to. Maybe we could push the NC-17 rating and get Benecio to bare all…for the people of course.
    Then we could flash forward to his modern legacy as a couple of pampered, wealthy, white college students discuss the class warfare and semiotics in John Hughes’ Uncle Buck, as they decide which brand of Che Gueverra brand weed paper to purchase.
    Then we could poetically dissolve to a young, nubile, blond co-ed getting ready to experiment with her first threesome, jumping into her lovers arms as they greet her under a gold lame, 500 dollar Che duvet.
    Yeah, that’s the flick I’d pay big money to see. Would probably earn more then this as well.

  • MAGGA

    I see nothing wrong about making two movies if it means that both will be well structured, complete works. Maybe Che is a man demanding two films to put everything into context?

  • NYCBusybody

    Trusting Hollywood to put a romantic Communist figure in “context”?
    Let the war on Soderbergh begin! Comrades unite!

  • p.Vice

    By the way…
    “in mexico and other South American locations like mexico and bolivia…”
    Contrary to white american popular opinion (WAPO), Mexico is NOT part of South America.
    Check your facts. And your redundancy, for that matter.

  • NYCBusybody

    Look at what’s happening in Oaxaca right now, p. Vice. They might as well be South American, bunch of leftie-whiner protesters.

  • http://fienprint.blogspot.com Daniel Fienberg

    Nicol D wrote, “Then we could poetically dissolve to a young, nubile, blond co-ed getting ready to experiment with her first threesome, jumping into her lovers arms as they greet her under a gold lame, 500 dollar Che duvet.”
    Your ideas intrigue me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter!

  • Edward

    The film isn’t even shot yet and Soderbergh is being criticized for “romantisizing” a leftist. Let’s at least give him a chance to get it right.

  • NYCBusybody

    To be fair, Edward, I said romanticizing a Communist, not a leftist. Even to me, they’re not quite the same thing, not entirely.

  • RoyBatty

    The only reason I looked at this thread was to have yet again one fact confirmed and it was: Nicol D and NYCBusybody have to be two of the biggest knee-jerk walking cliches of conservatives on the web.
    I also love the fact the only white person I have ever known to own any item with a Che likeness was right-wing roommate I had a few years ago who sported a Che T-shirt. He picked it up on a trip to Central America.

  • NYCBusybody

    RoyBatty, come to New York City. It’s the uniform of Greenwich Village white college students. They sell them at T-shirt stands on every corner, along with Soviet Union “Sickle and Hammer” shirts.
    If you go to Union Square at any given time of day, you’ll see tons of them. And I went to college in the Midwest, where at least 10 College Democrats had them, and wore them to a protest.
    You may just not know enough white people. I suggest diversity training for you.

  • Nicol D

    Roy,
    Really, c’mon. The white, upper-middle class, college student deification of Che as a symbol of rebellion is not exactly an obscure reference. If you have never seen it, I think maybe you need to get out more. It’s not even a big city phenomenon anymore.
    Even Roger Ebert, an avowed liberal Democrat, referenced it in his pan of The MotorCycle diaries.
    Feel free to disagree, but when you don’t get a reference like that, you come off like the sheltered knee-jerk…not us.

  • T. S. Idiot

    On a 15-minute walk from NYU to Union Square last Saturday, I did not see a single person sporting Che gear. In midtown, however, where I work, I saw two wearers of Che t-shirts last week: one Hispanic and one African American. So there.

  • NYCBusybody

    Well, I work in mid-town too, and I’ve never seen one around here. I’ve seen people BUYING them around Union Square/East Village, so we’ll have to agree to disagree on our perceptions, my good friend.
    Certainly not all Che shirts are worn by white upper-middle class kids (I see a lot on Hispanics too). I also saw a Reagan Revolution (the famous Che photo-shirt only with Reagan in it’s place) walking around the Upper West Side. To wear that shirt in NYC is truly rebellious, and even I don’t have the balls to do it.

  • travis b

    since we’re going to invoke the holy ebert (who didn’t really give it a pan…more like a lukewarm response), here is a direct quote which may tickle nicol and nyc, our two favorite righties here on the board.
    “Like his friend Fidel Castro, he was a right-winger disguised as a communist. He said he loved the people but he did not love their freedom of speech, their freedom to dissent, or their civil liberties”
    i don’t agree with a lot of what Guevara did, but the constant bashing and basic ignorance of his life (which was quite contradictory in many fashions) on this board make me laugh. i feel sodebergh will do right on this, giving us an accurate depiction of Che, and may even teach a thing or two to those on both sides of the fence on this issue. just let it rest until we actually see it.

  • NYCBusybody

    Communism and Fascism are the same thing. Being far-left and far-right to that point are the same thing. Both want to suppress views and ideas that aren’t their own. The political spectrum is a circle, not a line.
    Far be it from a complete imbecile like Roger Ebert to miss a chance to demonize right-wingers, though.

  • NYCBusybody

    Ask the students at Columbia University who shut down an anti-immigration speaker from being able to talk if they consider themselves “right-wingers”. I believe they’d kick Ebert’s ass if he told them that. They were Socialists who engaged in intimidation of civil liberties. Where’s Ebert railing against them?
    The Left has a history, mostly in universities, of demonizing the Right’s views, and making it so they can’t be expressed without intimidation (if you’re against race-based quotas, you’re a “racist”, and on an on). I’m sure Ebert in all his idiocy is for that, of course.

  • jesse

    Got it, NYCBB. Both the far-right and (really, as far as you’re concerned, mostly) the far-left are bad because they “surpress” (via vehement, often name-calling disagreement) views and ideas that disagree from their own.
    So were you calling one of the best film critics in this country an imbecile for his beliefs, or for some other reason that I can fathom even less?

  • Craig Kennedy

    I want to get a t-shirt with a Soderbergh silhouette.
    Just because a bunch of idealistic but uninformed college dopes wear shirts with Guevara’s picture doesn’t mean I’m not automatically interested in whatever Soderbergh is doing.
    A lot of people do a lot of stupid things in college and then they come out and get jobs like everyone else and become shockingly normal people for the most part.
    Soderbergh’s film could easily turn into an over-romanticized white wash of the subject….or it might not. How about if we wait until it comes out before we decide and stop looking for every excuse to drag out the tired left vs. right arguments?

  • travis b

    hey nyc…let’s cut to the point. . . are you interested in seeing sodebergh’s take on this or not? without left/right diatribe please.

  • adorian

    If you haven’t seen the new “Reds” DVD set, you might want to check it out. It seems very relevant… all of a sudden.

  • http://www.hollywood-elsewhere.com jeffreywells

    Wells to staunch commie-haters who already hate these Guevara films: I gave this a think-through last night and came to the rudimentrary conclusion that “The Argentine” and “Guerilla” combined are are going to resemble parts I and II of “Lawrence of Arabia” — the promise, the dream and the mixed glory in the first section, and the bitterness, madness and despair that manifests in the second.
    Presumably there will be much more to these two films than what I’ve just summarized, but it took me about 15 seconds to figure out the basic strategy — it’s fairly obvious — when I read Fleming’s story last night. Knee-jerk reactions like the ones from resident conservatives Nicol D. and NYC Busybody are — really, guys — reactionary and not very thoughtful and certainly not interesting.
    When the Soderbergh-del Toro-Guevara flick was just a single-film project (i.e., for the last several years), it was just “Guerrilla” — about how Guevara’s purist fervor led him to quit his Cuban posts and embark upon a failed attempt to spark a revolution in Bolivia. It’s a story about failure, isolation…listening more and more to the sounds of your own rhetorical spinnings to the exclusion of real-world reality that it invites pathetic self-destruction.
    As Chris Hitchens once wrote, “Che’s iconic status was assured because he failed. His story was one of defeat and isolation, and that’s why it is so seductive. Had he lived, the myth of Che would have long since died.”
    Because it’s largely about Che’s and Fidel’s glory period (i.e., fighting and winning the Cuban revolution, which everyone marvelled at the world over…Batista’s allegiance was strictly with the moneyed elements who provided for him…he cared not for the poor),”The Argentine” is going to be, as I said in the beginning of this post, about the hard climb up the mountain and the reaching of the summit and throwing one’s hat in the air and dancing beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.
    So “The Argentine” is the upper and “Guerilla” is the downer. Up the mountain, down the mountain. I doubt if Soderbergh, del Toro and Buchman will make the two films as black-and-white simplistic as this, but this is clearly the basic scheme.
    Even the folks in charge of the withered Cuban propaganda ministry would have trouble framing Guevara’s Bolivian experience in a positive light. Give Soderbergh, del Toro and Buchman some respect and assume, as any reasonable person would, that they’re certainly not going to attempt to glorify Guevara in part 2…no way. These are intelligent artists making this film. Show a little respect.
    They’re primarily attracted to Guevera’s life for the arc that it represents (everyone of any spirit strives for something fine and shining in this world and some achieve it, and then the dream fades and the bitter reality kicks in), for the highs and the lows, to the “Lawrence of Arabia” angle.

  • Walter Sobchak

    Che would be a forgotten revolutionary supporting player outside of Latin America if it weren’t for the convenient fact that someone took a really hunky photograph of him. Suitable for dorm room framing.
    And the N.Y. Mets named a stadium after him. “Ouch!”

  • Craig Kennedy

    Your extreme Righty (or Lefty for that matter)lives in a binary good/bad, left/right, up/down world. Che is either a superhero or a super-villain and there’s no in between. Most people fall into a grey area somewhere a little right or left of center and this is the territory I would expect an artist like Soderbergh to explore. It’s about conflict and contradiction. Attempt and failure. Pure propaganda would be a snooze whether it’s for or against. I think Wells is probably right in his estimation of the story arc. I hope it’s something like that anyway.

  • christian

    NYC, if communism and fascism are the same things, why did communist russia and china fight the german and italian fascists? couldn’t they have absorbed germany and become a big communist fascist force?
    unless of course, fascism and communism are two different things…
    “fascism” can result from “communism” which is why the right thinks they’re the same. but the economic social principles are opposite.
    of course one big tenent of fascism is a massive military, which would put it on the “right” side.
    and as for all those deluded college kids on left-wing campuses, NYC should take comfort that all the other branches of academia, law, business and engineering crank out more boatloads of capitalistic grads than the left.
    and NYC you should get on your knees and thank uc berkeley as its livermore labs are the second biggest center for nuclear weapons research in the country. and bush’s torture czar john yoo teaches law there to eager future shysters…
    damn hippies!

  • christian

    oh, and for the record, if anybody can make an objective account of che, it’s mr. soderbergh.

  • http://fienprint.blogspot.com Daniel

    Nicol D wrote, “Then we could poetically dissolve to a young, nubile, blond co-ed getting ready to experiment with her first threesome, jumping into her lovers arms as they greet her under a gold lame, 500 dollar Che duvet.”

    Your ideas intrigue me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter!

  • cjKennedy

    I want to get a t-shirt with a Soderbergh silhouette.

    Just because a bunch of idealistic but uninformed college dopes wear shirts with Guevara’s picture doesn’t mean I’m not automatically interested in whatever Soderbergh is doing.

    A lot of people do a lot of stupid things in college and then they come out and get jobs like everyone else and become shockingly normal people for the most part.

    Soderbergh’s film could easily turn into an over-romanticized white wash of the subject….or it might not. How about if we wait until it comes out before we decide and stop looking for every excuse to drag out the tired left vs. right arguments?

  • cjKennedy

    Your extreme Righty (or Lefty for that matter)lives in a binary good/bad, left/right, up/down world. Che is either a superhero or a super-villain and there’s no in between. Most people fall into a grey area somewhere a little right or left of center and this is the territory I would expect an artist like Soderbergh to explore. It’s about conflict and contradiction. Attempt and failure. Pure propaganda would be a snooze whether it’s for or against. I think Wells is probably right in his estimation of the story arc. I hope it’s something like that anyway.

  • Breedlove

    politics aside: is it really a good thing that this movie will be in spanish? i’ll run out to see ‘volver’ this weekend as fast as the next guy, but all things being equal wouldn’t you rather have it be in english if, like me, that’s the only language you speak? i feel like it does ever-so-slightly take something away from the experience when you have to be reading throughout the whole movie. and i also feel like i have a harder time getting a grasp on the quality of the acting when i don’t know exactly what’s being said. does anyone else feel this way? am i culturally lacking in some way?