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Despite chilling similarities between Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 thriller Contagion and the COVID-19 pandemic, the film’s screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns, doesn’t have a sequel on the brain.
Instead, he’d love to see someone write a film about controversial figure Andrew Wakefield. The disgraced U.K. doctor published a 1998 study that falsely linked the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism and drove public distrust of vaccinations that continues to linger.
“If we do have a vaccine for [COVID-19] and people don’t take it because they’ve been corrupted by the crimes of Andrew Wakefield and they think vaccines are evil, we are going to have a much bigger problem and a lot of people are going to get hurt,” he explained of the next phase of the pandemic. “I would love for someone to do a movie on Andrew Wakefield to show how diabolical what he did is.”
Burns, who delivered the remarks during a virtual masterclass discussion with MetFilm School (a private university with campuses in London and Berlin), said the reason Contagion has so many parallels with what is happening now is because his extensive research process brought him together with scientists who are now in the COVID-19 fight.
Though he didn’t specify names, Burns did say some of those same scientists are the reason he decided to bring himself “back in the fray” and discuss the virus and pandemic after initially refusing press requests back at the start of the year.
As a way out, Burns says he hopes people continue to trust the facts and tune out those who are just spouting opinions. “I’m terrified right now about losing facts,” he continued. “There is this almost weird wokeness and I saw that in the worst version of it where you’re not allowed to defend a fact because everybody gets their opinion. A famous United States senator from New York named Patrick Moynihan once said, ‘You’re entitled to your own opinion, but you’re not entitled to your own facts.'”
Speaking of which, vaccines have been dominating the news cycle of late, and top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci recently told CNN’s David Axelrod that his eye is on 2021. “The timetable you suggested of getting into 2021, well into the year, then I can think with a successful vaccine — if we could vaccinate the overwhelming majority of the population — we could start talking about real normality again,” Fauci said. “But it is going to be a gradual process.”
A version of this story first appeared in the July 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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