Like Netflix’s Malcolm and Marie, Ben Wheatley’s In the Earth, and Doug Liman’s Locked Down, Steven Soderbergh’s latest crime caper, No Sudden Move, will forever hold a unique place in cinematic history – it was filmed entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cameras started rolling on the period thriller in September 2021, production having originally been scheduled for April that same year.
Soderbergh was one of the filmmakers behind the safety protocols initiated by the Directors Guild of America [DGA], allowing production to continue safely during the turbulent period. No Sudden Move was completed by the cast and crew, without filming having to be paused or production shut down, in November 2021.
The experience of making No Sudden Move was, unsurprisingly, very different from a normal film set. Masks and social distancing led to a strange atmosphere – but not an altogether negative one. “We became a lot more concerned and close to one another, although social distancing was in place,” says Brendan Fraser, who appears in the movie as a character with a very Orwellian feel.
Over Zoom, GamesRadar+ and Total Film caught up with the mammoth cast of No Sudden Move – now available digitally in the UK – about the making of the movie and working with Soderbergh. And just in case Fraser wasn’t already a big enough pull, other cast members include Soderbergh stalwarts Don Cheadle and Bill Duke, Stranger Things’ David Harbour, Uncut Gems breakout Julia Fox, Sicario’s Benicio Del Toro, A Quiet Place’s Noah Jupe, Upstream Color’s Amy Seimetz, and Goodfellas’ Ray Liotta. Phew.
Don Cheadle: We shot this in Detroit, Michigan, and the numbers [of COVID cases] were going off. The numbers were kind of scary. But Steven was one of the co-authors of the protocols for the DGA [Directors Guild of America], and we had a great epidemiology team from Wayne State University that he also worked with on Contagion. So we ultimately felt safe. And trust is something that we had to really rely on, not just on the set when having scene partners, but when you went home, we had to trust that everybody was on their best behavior and weren’t being irresponsible off set, and then coming back and potentially exposing the cast to everything. We were in a bubble, and everybody had each other’s back.
This is a movie that started in April  that had to get pushed for months and it looked like it wasn’t going to happen at some points. So nobody was going to come back and screw it up. And we got through the whole thing without having to shut down and came out with something that’s, I think, really entertaining and fun and smart and all the things that you want a movie to be and that’s all a testament to Steven’s leadership.
Brendan Fraser: Well, gosh, clearly a set of safety protocols are in place to keep everyone healthy and well, including wearing masks when not on camera. The realization that the on-screen talent who weren’t wearing the masks are actually the ones who were vulnerable at the time that we were doing this, interestingly, we became a lot more concerned and close to one another, although social distancing was in place. I think it shows in this movie, there’s a great deal of care and concern that went into making sure that we did this safely and did it right and straight up with Steven Soderbergh directing this movie in this genre, it works gangbusters.
Julia Fox: Because of all the COVID restrictions, we didn’t really have a lot of time to rehearse together or read lines. That was not really happening. It was like: get to set, run the lines really quickly, and then wing it and figure it out as we went, and then we would change something, try things out. But that was all happening on set with the cameras on. It was very efficient, though. We were really in and out.
David Harbour: I found it very different [to a normal film set]. I mean, a lot of the great things about film sets are that there’s a physical nature to it – a lot of people doing heavy labor, running over to the monitor, checking out a shot, slapping each other on the back. Even in a scene, just doing stuff where you’re physical and I’m a physical actor. And then to have that be immediately… Every time I would get close to someone, even in a scene, I would think about [COVID]. It just crossed my mind, like droplets, and things like that. And so it added another complexity to the work, which I wasn’t crazy about. But it was different.
Noah Jupe: When you have people like this cast in a room, all working together, by the third day we were all chatting, we were very sociable. There’s a trust between everyone and that allows you to feel relaxed and then that allows you to be more connected in the scene. The happier and more joyful a set is, the better performance you’re going to get. I don’t know if that’s an actual thing, but it definitely felt like this one.
Amy Seimetz: I remember, in a scene when I hugged [Noah], we had to hold that hug for a really long time to get the camera focus right. And because it was COVID, not only was it very strange to just be hugging him while they’re checking focus on us, because I hadn’t hugged anyone apart from my boyfriend for so long. Even on set, everyone has masks, and you’re used to this camaraderie where, at the end of the day, you would hug your fellow actor. And you just don’t do that. So that hug, I was like, ‘This is really strange.’
Noah Jupe (giggling): It was way too long as well.
Benicio Del Toro: I’ve always said, ‘The better the actor is that you’re working with, the better you will be.’ There’s just a total respect and trust that happens. And I think that that’s also a testament to Steven because he creates that space so you can trust. It’s that trust that happens with seasoned actors. When we work with younger people, you want to work them – because the better they are, the better you will be.
Julia Fox: The atmosphere was done for us with the set design. Everything really felt so authentic and from the ‘50s. You just immediately entered that universe. It was actually pretty easy to transition in and out because it felt so real.
Don Cheadle: Even with all of that protocols and the intensity from that, [Soderbergh] was able to steer the plane like he always does. We didn’t crash, we move fast, and the film doesn’t suffer as a result. He’s definitely on his game and you feel really comfortable when you know that you’re working with somebody who’s as assured, as clear as he is, and can still make space for us. That’s a big deal.
Bill Duke: First of all, Steven knows how to work with actors. Number two, he doesn’t waste time.
Brendan Fraser: He’s quick!
Bill Duke: He’s not waiting for the right sunset, if you know what I’m saying. And when he shoots, you better be ready, because it could be one take, no more than two. And looking at his efficiency, he doesn’t only direct, sometimes he actually is the actual director of photography. He’s a wardrobe guy, maybe he’ll straighten your tie or whatever, he’s totally committed and devoted to what he’s doing. And that’s what’s special about him.
Ray Liotta: He’s right up there [with the best directors I’ve worked with]. He really knows what he wants to do. He knows the camera, where you’re gonna put it. It’s all edited in his head. Because sometimes, directors usually do a long shot, close up, mid-shot. And this one, he just knew what he wanted. And then he was ready to move on. He saw the movie in his head to begin with. So, he’s right up there with the best.
No Sudden Move is available now in the UK on Sky Cinema, NOW, and Digital Download. The movie is streaming now on HBO Max in the US. For more, check out the most exciting upcoming movies heading your way soon.