LOS ANGELES - The countdown is on for Steven Soderbergh. With "Magic Mike" opening in theaters Friday, the prolific director has just two more films to finish before he's "going to drop off the grid for a while."
The 49-year-old filmmaker says he's taking a sabbatical from Hollywood, and it could be permanent.
"It's just time to recharge," he said. "I'm all or nothing. It's on or off, and I need it to be off for a while."
If all goes according to plan, he aims to begin his indefinite break from the movie business on his 50th birthday in January. Until then, he'll be working furiously to finish his final two films.
"The Bitter Pill," a drama starring Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum and Jude Law, is nearly done, the director said, and he's about to start shooting "Behind the Candelabra," a Liberace biopic for HBO starring Michael Douglas as the flamboyant pianist. Both are set for release in 2013.
Soderbergh said he's looking forward to "a new year with a new start."
He already has ideas in mind for paintings and drawings he'd like to make. Other creative interests include photography, collage and "one more film book."
"I'll always be making things," he said. "They'll just be other things."
Soderbergh, who has been nominated for three Academy Awards and won for directing 2000's "Traffic," said the type of material that appeals to moviegoers has changed during his 27-year career.
"American movie audiences now just don't seem to be very interested in any kind of ambiguity or any kind of real complexity of character or narrative - I'm talking in large numbers, there are always some, but enough to make hits out of movies that have those qualities," he said. "I think those qualities are now being seen on television and that people who want to see stories that have those kinds of qualities are watching television."
He said if he returns to the entertainment industry, "it's more likely I would end up in television."
But he's comfortable with saying goodbye to filmmaking forever.
"I'd be fine with that," he said. "That was 27, 28 films. That's plenty."