Directing Contagion may have prepared Steven Soderbergh for a pandemic, but not for the deeply stupid human behavior that people have had in response to a pandemic. The filmmaker’s acclaimed 2011 thriller was ahead of the curve — showing the breakdown of society and difficulties of curbing the spread of a deadly virus long before coronavirus (COVID-19) even existed.
Contagion was a famously realistic take on the pandemic movie, with Soderbergh employing a team of researchers and consultants to depict how a virus would really spread in today’s global society. And while he got plenty of things right, even Soderbergh couldn’t predict the “deeply irrational” human behavior that has taken place since the coronavirus pandemic began.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times this week, Soderbergh said that making Contagion, which he directed from a screenplay by Scott Z. Burns, prepared him for a global pandemic, adding that he wasn’t surprised the coronavirus crisis played out as it did.
“It’s been fascinating to see the aspects of this narrative play out that we didn’t think about,” Soderbergh said. “The sociological behavior, how people have behaved as individuals, as states, as countries — that’s been really fascinating. And something that very purposely, Scott and I were trying to keep the narrative very focused and we had rules about points of view and what we can see and what we couldn’t see.”
However, what did surprise him was the depths of human stupidity that has been on display as coronavirus cases increased at an alarming rate, particularly in the U.S., and as statewide lockdowns continue to remain in place. While Soderbergh would predict the rise of conspiracy theorists, like the one played by Jude Law in Contagion who hawked a false cure, he was taken aback by the widespread denial that has taken form in armed anti-mask protests, and in White House policy itself. Soderbergh said:
“But wow, there’s a lot of really fascinating human behavior that we didn’t even think about when we were doing this. It’s just a reminder of how deeply irrational we are. When we’re put into some sort of fear-threat space, we become deeply illogical. It’s crazy to witness.”
Soderbergh has been placed at the head of a DGA committee to explore the safest ways to resume film and TV productions in Hollywood’s post-coronavirus recovery period, likely due to his helming Contagion, which has seen a surge in popularity ever since coronavirus hit. His Contagion screenwriter Scott Z. Burns has been busy too, getting tapped for new projects amid the pandemic and criticizing the Trump administration for their response to the coronavirus pandemic.
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