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Soderbergh Learned Something Unsettling From ‘Contagion’: A Real Outbreak Was Inevitable

"Contagion" has become one of the most-watched movies in Warner Bros.' catalogue this year amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Steven Soderbergh attends a premiere for "The Laundromat" on day five of the Toronto International Film Festival at Princess of Wales Theatre, in Toronto2019 TIFF - "The Laundromat" Premiere, Toronto, Canada - 09 Sep 2019

Steven Soderbergh

Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 virus thriller “Contagion” has gotten a second life over the last couple months amid the coronavirus pandemic, becoming one of the most rented titles on iTunes and the second most-watched movie in Warner Bros.’ catalogue in 2020. The director has yet to speak out on the recent surge of “Contagion” viewership, but interviews from the time of the film’s release suggest Soderbergh probably isn’t too surprised by the global outbreak that’s taking place right now. Uproxx’s Mike Ryan shared a 2011 interview with Soderbergh on social media in which the director said one of the most unsettling lessons of making “Contagion” was how talking with medical professionals and scientists made it clear that a massive virus outbreak was inevitable for the future.

“There were two things that were unsettling,” Soderbergh said at the time about his “Contagion” research. “One is that everyone you spoke to said, ‘We’re due for a big one.’ And some of the stories from the people who go out and parachute into the situations, how politics prevented them from doing their work, are really depressing. Where they literally show up somewhere where there’s been an outbreak of a treatable disease and they’re there with supplies ready to go in. And because a volatile political situation existed, they weren’t allowed in to keep people from dying. They don’t have jurisdiction anywhere. You have to ask them to come. They have to be invited.”

Soderbergh’s “Contagion” writer Scott Z. Burns spoke out this week against the Trump administration for failing to respond appropriately to the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. “It’s stunning to me that our administration can’t put out a clear message on how people can stay safe and what our tools are for understanding the current spread,” the writer said. “There’s a video on YouTube of a song they did in Vietnam about hand-washing and how important it is. Why isn’t our government putting out public service messages about how to stay safe? That isn’t that hard.”

“Contagion” was a box office hit for Soderbergh in 2011, grossing just over $136 million worldwide.

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