One of the cruelest punchlines Steven Soderbergh's ever contributed in his substantial filmography was the first attendee's muffled cough after a packed screening of “Contagion.” And packed it likely was, as the film made a cool $135 million worldwide alongside great reviews, but now with the director off pursuing the next phase of his career, his collaborator Scott Z. Burns is now looking to bring a planned follow-up to a more germophone friendly venue.
In May of last year, Warner Bros. — flush with confidence — decided to put an OWA (Open Writing Assignment) out for a “Contagion” sequel, but after a steady period of silence over the project, “Side Effects” screenwriter Burns now has set his sights on TV moving forward.
"We've been talking about turning it into a TV series and I think it may have a life there," Burns recently explained to Coming Soon. "It has some of the properties inherently like 'Homeland' and '24' where you can really explore outbreaks and pandemics in interesting ways. Like this story, they take you to unexpected places, whether it's drug companies or governments or scientists or people with political agendas. All of these things, once they're out there, can be coopted from a lot of different angles."
The first film explored many of those viewpoints, jamming in new characters and split-second appearances left and right, so naturally it would seen Burns envisioned a lot more than what made it onto the screen. But for Burns, the emphasis was more on plot and its endless variables.
“[Anytime] I looked at a business or a character, when it's something like a virus, it changes everything,” he said. “If you have a date with somebody and they're sick and now you don't go out with them to businessmen who don't get on planes and don't go to meetings, so certain things don't happen. It becomes a causal agent for a whole bunch of plot."
As Burns notes, there's definitely a proven market for the show — and fans of the first film to follow it — but with Soderbergh gone, who's to say if the level of hypochondria-inducing immediacy will carry over to a new home? We'll see if any cable networks think so soon, but in the meantime, check out the duo's latest (and last?) collaboration, “Side Effects” this Friday, February 8th.