‘Contagion’ screenwriter not surprised about Coronavirus outbreak

"When scientists tell us those things we would do well to listen"

The screenwriter of the 2011 movie that depicts the outbreak of a disease has said he’s not surprised that coronavirus – a similar, though less deadly virus – has spread in real life.

Contagion writer Scott Z. Burns attributes his thorough research of pandemics conducted before the making of the Steven Soderbergh–directed film as the reason for this. “The scientists I spoke to, and there were a lot of them, all said that this was a matter of when, not if,” he said.

Burns was speaking to Slate about the rise in viewings of Contagion in the wake of Coronavirus when he was asked about the story “more or less coming true in real time.”

Advertisement

“Well, obviously, you know, it’s very upsetting to see people getting sick and dying,” he answered. “The part of me that is a human being is more struck by this than the part of me that is a filmmaker.

“That being said, it has been very strange to me, whether on social media or in conversations with friends, that people will say to me, ‘This is uncanny how similar it is.’ And I don’t find it to be that surprising, because the scientists I spoke to, and there were a lot of them, all said that this was a matter of when, not if. So, I guess my feeling as someone who believes in science is that when scientists tell us those things we would do well to listen,” he said.

According to Buzzfeed News, Contagion was the fifteenth most-rented film on January 29 on iTunes. One year ago, it wasn’t even in the top 100.

Elsewhere in the interview, the reporter mentioned that the science dealing with a pandemic hasn’t changed in the near-10 years since Contagion was released. Burns agreed but mentioned how the governmental support framework has weakened in his native US.

“We were in a better place to deal with this when I was doing research on the movie. We had a Department of Homeland Security that had a pandemic-preparedness team in place. There were people who understood how public health works. I listened to a press conference that the president gave where he described himself as a businessman who didn’t like it when people were just sitting around.

Advertisement

“Unfortunately, this administration has decided that is what it wants to do, and it puts people way behind. When you look at the amount of testing this country has done compared to other countries, that’s the part that is scary to me.”

See a rundown of all the major film and TV productions that have been affected by the Coronavirus outbreak.

Advertisement
Advertisement