Steven Soderbergh laughed off the retirement question at Saturday’s “Contagion” press junket, blaming Matt Damon for that rumor. “He is the man who started all this,” Soderbergh quipped at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. “He’s got total recall when he’s drunk, really alarming.”

The 48-year-old helmer continued to dance around the question. However, in the New York Times, he recently addressed it a bit more in an interview done from his painting studio, saying, “I’m interested in exploring another art form while I have the time and the ability to do so.”

Regardless, since he has three more films in pre-production, that possible retirement is still a few years away. Plus, as Soderbergh reveals, he’s still having fun making movies. Especially when he gets the chance to peel back Gwyneth Paltrow’s skull during a grisly autopsy scene in “Contagion.”

As Soderbergh tells it, “We had a medical, an actual medical examiner, who does this sort of thing all the time. And we asked her to walk us through the steps. When she said, ‘Well, we cut here, and we peel the skin over the front of the face,’ I immediately turned to (producer-screenwriter) Greg Jacobs and said, ‘OK, we need to find a flap of something that looks like pizza up on one end without the sauce, that we could attach some wig hair to so that we could do this.’ And we scrambled around and we found we were able to do that.”

* * *

When Bryce Dallas Howard was ready to jump in and produce “Restless,” director Gus Van Sant’s latest, her dad was there with a safety net — and an estimated $15 million to invest in the quirky drama. Apparently, Ron Howard had an ulterior motive for helping his daughter. “My dad was so charged when Gus said yes, he was going to do this movie, because he was going to get an opportunity to work more closely with him,” the actress-producer said at pic’s Tuesday press junket, held at the Four Seasons Beverly Hills.

It seems Ron still thinks he has a lot to learn, despite his two Oscars.

“When you’re an actor, you get to see how a lot of different filmmakers work, but when you’re a director you don’t really get to have that kind of experience,” his daughter continued. “You just know the way that you work. My dad came from being an actor, but now he’s a director, and so he’s always asking me, ‘How does this person work? How do they run their set?’ This was an instance where he got to work with Gus and he got to experience that in a very close way, and there are things that Gus did that he now as a filmmaker wants to do and take on because he saw how it worked.”