For Sharon Stone, Mosaic is murder — but for Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh, it’s a brand-new film experience for viewers
Thanks to an app, viewers can watch ‘Mosaic’ through the eyes of different characters
Love and murder in a small town is a tale as old as the hills, but Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh knows the sizzle comes in finding a fresh way to approach the material that lets viewers experience the story as never before.
With Mosaic, the iconic Hollywood filmmaker known for Traffic, Erin Brockovich and Ocean’s Eleven – and for his hallmark jump cuts, montages and multifaceted stories – truly outdid himself by giving viewers in the United States a free app for their smartphones last November that lets them pick their own path through his murder-mystery over almost eight hours of footage.
“It’s not a film, and it’s not a TV show. It’s kind of its own thing,” says the 55-year-old, once dubbed the “poster boy of the Sundance generation” by film critic Roger Ebert after Soderbergh won the Palme d’Or in Cannes at the tender age of 26 for his global box-office hit, Sex, Lies & Videotape.
Three years in the making, the Mosaic app empowers viewers to weave their own experience and choose the point-of-view of the character they want to follow from the cinematic fabric spun by Soderbergh and writer Ed Solomon.
“I lost two days of my life watching this app,” Mosaic star Sharon Stone told a New York City audience at a TV Talks panel sponsored by The Hollywood Reporter last week. “If you get in, you can’t get out. Watching Mosaic is a little like joining the mob – there’s no coming back.”
As users create their own version of the story through their selections, they can also pop down a few rabbit holes to play the gumshoe themselves – if they wish to pore over background documents, emails, news clippings, voicemails, police blotters and more, through a Discoveries option.
While the app remains available to US residents, the rest of us are looking forward to seeing Stone lead a superb cast – and perhaps a grand comeback for herself – in the six-hour mini-series version that starts on Tuesday on OSN First HD Home of HBO.
Stone portrays Olivia Lake, a children’s author and illustrator whose literary achievements have made her a celebrity in her tight-knit, mountain resort community. One night, accompanied by her friend JC (Paul Reubens) at the town’s annual fundraiser, she takes more than a professional interest in a charming newcomer, the graphic artist Joel Hurley (Garrett Hedlund).
Olivia soon takes Joel home, giving him a place to live and work. But when his girlfriend Laura (Maya Kazan) shows up unexpectedly, Olivia finds herself overcome by jealousy. Then Olivia vanishes, leaving behind a blood-spattered studio – and the whodunit is off and running.
Stone’s co-stars also include: Frederick Weller as Olivia’s con-man suitor; Jennifer Ferrin as his sister, who does her own investigation; and two-time Golden Globe winner Beau Bridges as the corrupt sheriff.
The project was shot at a blistering pace – 500 pages of script over 10 weeks, compared with a typical 100-page Hollywood flick that takes six or more months – amid the mountain vistas of scenic Park City, Utah over the winter of 2015-16.
“The first three or four days, I thought I was going to die,” says Stone, 59, who shot to stardom in the ’90s in Total Recall, Basic Instinct and Casino. “But it’s like a race: Once you get your pace, you can do 30 pages in a day and you can go home and learn the next 30 pages and really go.
“It was such a learning curve. At this point in all of our careers to be in this new thing and to be working so quickly, and learning some new way to work, is just exhilarating.”
That viewers may choose to experience Mosaic on a small smartphone screen doesn’t faze Soderbergh.
“Cinema is not about format and it’s not about venue. Cinema is an approach. Cinema is a state of mind on the part of the filmmaker,” he says. “I’ve seen commercials that have cinema in them, and I’ve seen Oscar-winning movies that don’t. I’m fine with this.”
A second season of his storytelling experiment is already in the works.
“We’re developing at least one more. This new one goes a lot deeper,” says the director. “It deals with a group of characters who are constantly on their phones and communicating with each other, and so that component is going to be very central to how information is transmitted. It’s going to be a much more active piece, I think, narratively, for the viewer.”
Mosaic airs at 11pm on Tuesday, on OSN First HD Home of HBO. See listings for more viewing times