In 2011, almost ten years before Covid-19, director Steven Soderbergh directed a film that today seems prescient: “Contagion”. For this feature film, he is inspired by a virus that hit in the 1990s.
Contagion : the film that sends shivers down your spine…
In 2011, screenwriter Scott Z. Burns and director Steven Soderbergh imagine a chilling story of contagion. As its title suggests, Contagion tells how a deadly virus spreads across the world and creates a pandemic unprecedented in human history. A disaster scenario more than credible today. And which almost served as a warning just over ten years ago.
Driven by an amazing cast (Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Jude Law, Kate Winslet, Bryan Cranston and Gwyneth Paltrow), Contagion turned out to be an extremely lucid film. It must be said that the screenwriter Scott Z. Burns Wanted To Make A Pandemic Movie Based On Scientifically Accurate Facts. The writer then did a lot of research for more than three years. He even met specialists in the matter, as he explained at the microphone of Variety :
I met Dr. Larry Brilliant, an epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox in the 1960s. And Larry introduced me to Ian Lipkin, a virologist from Columbia University. I spent a lot of time with him talking about how viruses work; and the probability of the emergence of the next viruses in the world. He then promised to help me if I made a point of making the film scientifically substantial.
At the time, Contagion brought in more than $136 million in box office receipts (for a budget of 60 million). A small success, but the film was viewed a lot after the fact, when the Covid-19 emerged.
A virus that already exists
Since Scott Z. Burns and Steven Soderbergh worked with realism in mind, the screenwriter explained that they inspired by a real virus. It’s Dr. Ian Lipkin; director of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and consultant on the set of the film; which revealed that the bacterium at the center of Contagion originates from a virus that already exists: the Nipah.
This finds its roots in bat organism and is potentially fatal to humans. The Nipah virus was first discovered in 1998, in Malaysia, when several pig farmers contracted a strange disease. At the time, 115 people out of the 265 infected die. In response to the birth of this bacterium, which is also deadly for animals, more than a million pigs were slaughtered to prevent the epidemic from spreading.
As in Contagion, if a human being is exposed to the Nipah virus, they can develop respiratory infections and acute encephalitis which could prove fatal. Although there is a treatment for the Nipah virus, there is no vaccine to protect the population against this bacterium. Its spread on a global scale would therefore be a real disaster…