While I have been on record expressing the sentiment that there are many filmmakers who should retire before Steven Soderbergh, I just got off the phone with the filmmaker. And damn it, he still wants to punch out by the time he hits 50. “I’m still following my plan,” he told me. “I’ve been stupid about it, I should have kept my mouth shut, but at the same time, I don’t think there’s anything that unusual about it. By the time I finish with the series of projects I’m planning, it will be 26 or 27 films. That’s plenty and if you take volume over quality; I’m twice as good as Kubrick.”

Forecasting his exit also didn’t help in terms of preparing the industry to make a fuss over him. “I figured by giving them two years lead time, they would line up those lifetime achievement awards, but there have been no calls or anything,” Soderbergh joked. Asked what he would like, he said, tongue firmly in cheek, “The Oprah thing. A year-long daily celebration of my fabulousness would be nice. Or maybe just a smallish parade.”

Soderbergh and I were speaking about Relativity Media’s decision to release Haywire, which it financed but set distribution originally through Lionsgate. Though that picture was shot before Contagion – the thriller about the outbreak of a deadly virus that stars Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard and Jude Law — Haywire will be released Jan. 20, 2012, three months after Contagion. Soderbergh will talk the picture up while promoting Contagion, which he feels will help an action film that leans heavily on Gina Carano, known only to mixed martial arts fans who’ve seen her fight on the circuit. Soderbergh also liked the Relativity move because it reunites him with Relativity’s new marketing chief Terry Curtin, with whom Soderbergh worked at Universal on Erin Brockovich.

“I think it might be best for Haywire to follow Contagion, which is the kind of film people like to see me make,” Soderbergh said. “It’s in the vein of Traffic, an entertaining multi-layered story about something timely right now. Because Gina has never been in a movie before, being able to draft off Contagion will be very good. We knew she could do the right stuff, but she really delivers as a screen presence. She looks comfortable, and then she tears these guys in half.”

Soderbergh said he’ll start work in September on Magic Mike, the film that will star Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer as male strippers in a coming-of-age story reminiscent of Saturday Night Fever. He’ll follow by directing George Clooney in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in February. After that, Liberace with Michael Douglas and Damon will likely be Soderbergh’s swan song. While I reminded him that he’s walking away at a time when he has plenty to say and the wisdom to know how to solve problems that maturity brings, he disagreed.

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“I’m not better at things that I’ve been trying to get at and I find it frustrating,” he said. Asked what he’s trying to discover, he said, “A new grammar, maybe. I haven’t quite figured out what it is. In lieu of some gigantic epiphany I might feel when I see this new thing I imagine is out there, I feel like I am out of ideas. I find myself saying, I’ve done this shot before. Or, I’ve solved this problem before by doing the same thing I’m doing now. I don’t like that feeling of, ‘I’ve done this.’ If you are dealing within the confines of traditional narrative filmmaking, it’s hard not to feel like you’re in a box after awhile.”

What will he do instead? “Probably something visual, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m still making things, but they will be under the radar and I won’t be asking other people to pay for them,” he said. “When I turn 50 around January 2013, I would like to think I will have blown a kiss goodbye to the industry.”

Soderbergh admits this could be altered, saying he’s made plans before and changed them. “Maybe this turns out to be an extended sabbatical, where I recharge myself, but I need an extended break.” He’s repped by Anonymous Content.

Below is Relativity Media’s confirmation about picking up Haywire:

(Beverly Hills, CA) June 15, 2011 – Relativity Media announced today that it has retained North American rights to theatrically market and distribute its action-thriller Haywire, directed by Oscar® winner Steven Soderbergh (Traffic). The film is set for a January 20, 2012 wide release.

Mixed martial arts (MMA) superstar Gina Carano (American Gladiators) makes her feature film debut, starring and performing her own high-adrenaline stunts. The film’s talented cast also includes Channing Tatum (GI Joe: Rise of the Cobra), Ewan McGregor (The Ghost Writer), Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class), Antonio Banderas (Desperado), Bill Paxton (Titanic), Michael Douglas (Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps) and Michael Angarano (Almost Famous).

In Haywire, an electrifying tale of espionage and betrayal, a female covert ops specialist (Carano), who works in the deadly world of international operatives, strikes back after discovering she’s been double-crossed by someone close to her in the agency. The film is produced by Gregory Jacobs (Ocean’s Trilogy) and written by Lem Dobbs (The Limey).

The film was previously set to release through Lionsgate, a distribution partner before Relativity structured its own distribution arm. Lionsgate is handling foreign rights.

“We are honored to be working with Steven Soderbergh on this project. This film is full of amazing action sequences, and with a sophistication only Soderbergh can deliver,” said Relativity’s President of Worldwide Production, Tucker Tooley. “We’re very excited to add our picture to Relativity’s 2012 slate. We’re looking forward to working with our partners at Lionsgate on the release internationally.”

Looking ahead, Relativity will release David Ellis’ Shark Night 3D on September 2, 2011 and then the highly-anticipated Immortals on November 11, 2011, starring Henry Cavill, Stephen Dorff, Isabel Lucas, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans and Kellan Lutz with John Hurt and Mickey Rourke. The studio is in production on its Untitled Snow White Project (in theatres March 16, 2012), starring Lily Collins as Snow White, Oscar®-winner Julia Roberts as the evil Queen, Armie Hammer as Prince Andrew Alcott, and Nathan Lane as the hapless and bungling servant to the Queen. Relativity’s expansive 2012 slate also includes its House at the End of the Street (in theatres February 3, 2012), Untitled Raven Project (in theatres March 9, 2012), Untitled Farrelly/Wessler Project (in theatres April 13, 2012), Safe Haven (in theatres June 1, 2012) and Hunter Killer (in theatres December 21, 2012). The studio recently announced the groundbreaking action-thriller Act of Valor will join its 2012 slate, with an exact date to be announced.