Contagion Screenwriter Speaks on Box Office Victory

Scott Z. Burns first got the idea for this week’s box office champ Contagion while working on director Steven Soderbergh’s previous collaboration with star Matt Damon, The Informant.

Jude Law in Contagion

“There’s a scene in The Informant where Scott Bakula is on the phone and coughs and sneezes and gives the phone to Matt’s character. And then Matt’s character goes on kind of a rant about, ‘now what happens, I get sick, my kid gets sick.’ I’d always sort of been fascinated by that ever since I went on the airplane,” Burns said. “So I called Steven and I said I think it would be really interesting to do a pandemic movie, but one that was more rooted in reality and he said, ‘I’m in!’ The pitch was any longer than that.”

Burns is sitting down with Movie Fanatic to talk about the mind that created the madness that is the international epidemic movie striking a chord with critics and audiences alike.

Burns first garnered notice for his work writing The Bourne Ultimatum, again working with Damon. Contagion marks the second time Burns has worked with Soderbergh and would clearly adore the opportunity to create movie magic with either or both of them once again.

Burns waxes poetic about making Contagion as well as taking us inside the process of writing a film that he hopes will create a fever that all audiences will want to catch.

Movie Fanatic: When you have an ensemble cast where any one of them could have had their own film how do you decide how many characters is too many? How many is too little?

Scott Z. Burns: Well, when we started thinking about this, Steven and I talked about having one character sort of tracing the virus back in time and that was Marion’s (Cotillard) character. She was going to be doing the detective work. But then we also needed a character who’d be sort of marching through time going forward with the virus and that became Laurence’s (Fishburne) character. And then we wanted kind of a proxy for a human being and how they would experience a virus… So we knew we were going backwards and we knew we were going forwards and we needed a proxy. Then when I started doing research I just was fascinated by — because H1N1 had happened — how there’s this other voice that starts approaching on the consciousness about these things and that’s where Jude’s (Law) character came in. Jennifer’s (Ehle) character was born out of the fact that I met Dr. Lipkin and I saw how interesting the research was. I guess at that point I thought, “That’s a lot of people. Probably can’t afford anymore.”

Movie Fanatic: How difficult is it to insert the medical terminology into a script and have it real, yet still approachable and understandable for an audience?

Scott Z. Burns: At one point we were shooting a scene and Ian said, “Well she should say that it’s morphologically pathognomonic.” I was like, “I can’t ask another human being to say that.” But I was amazed that not only could she say it, but she could say it as though she truly understood it, which as a writer, and I’m sure everyone else up here feels the same way, when you have someone that can do that it means that your script can live basically.

Movie Fanatic: Why is the timing perfect in September 2011 for Contagion?

Scott Z. Burns: When we started doing research all of the scientists that we spoke to about it I anticipated that some of them were trying to tame down you know things were going, “Well yea this is possible.” But all of them said it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter when. If you look at the sort of medical record, every few years there ends up being some kind of outbreak. We had started the movie at about three or four months into the research is when H1N1 happened. So that became a really interesting trade circle through the system for us to follow some of the issues.

Laurence Fishburne stars in Contagion

Movie Fanatic: Why have the film start in Hong Kong?

Scott Z. Burns: One of the things that I learned while doing research and one of the sort of…’cause we wanted to ground this as much in reality as possible, was part of this virus is based on SARS, which started I think in Guangzhou as far as we know. Reason that we chose Hong Kong is that, the mainland, is because there are some tensions in terms of change over the government and there are two governments there. And even though they seem to be working it out, during times of stress you know in governments and organizations, there’s always gonna be difficulties with sharing information. The Chinese were very helpful to the World Health Organization during SARS and there was a lot of cooperation, but you know in places in the world where there’s not a lot of refrigeration, people tend to go to wet markets and buy animals and at certain times of year, it’s culturally appropriate to eat furry mammals and that’s one of the things that surrounds SARS so it was to sort of highlight how different you know different cultures interact with the natural world.

Latest Breaking Dawn Part 1 Trailer: Troubles Ahead

A new 15-second trailer for Breaking Dawn Part 1 has arrived. The preview shows a few new shots for fans, but one thing is clear: Breaking Dawn Part 1 is no honeymoon — danger lies ahead.

Spending Time Together

Days after Summit Entertainment released two new Breaking Dawn Part 1 posters, they have given fans a short glimpse into the November film. The tension is ripe for our heroes Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward (Robert Pattinson) as the end to the sweeping epic series is clearly within reach.

Right off the bat, Stewart’s Bella begins to feel something is growing inside her. Sure, that seems like a funny way to describe her learning she’s pregnant. But, if you know the series, this is no ordinary pregnancy. Before long, that vampire hybrid baby will be chewing its way out into the world.

The spot does a great job at showing how the fear in Bella’s eyes is not the normal reaction to discovering a newlywed is pregnant. Why shouldn’t she be scared? Now that she is pregnant, her life will truly never be the same again.

Latest Breaking Dawn Part 1 Trailer: Danger Ahead

The Three Stooges gets a Release Date: April 4, 2012

Who better to bring The Three Stooges’ life story to the big screen than The Farrelly Brothers? The film features Sean Hayes as Larry (photo below), Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe and Will Sasso as Curly. Color us filled with anticipation.

Sean Hayes on Three Stooges Set

The Three Stooges also has quite the supporting cast that includes Larry David, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Hudson and Sofia Vergara.

The Three Stooges is inspired from the original Stooges shorts with the story following the three comic legends as they are left at an orphanage through their big break and then iconic status. The Farrelly Brothers, fresh off of Hall Pass, are clearly inspired by the Stooges’ shorts as their film will be broken into three half-hour shorts that tell the Stooges story while having creative license to bring the guys into the present as they appear on a reality show.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol Poster: Released, Intense

Your mission, Movie Fanatics, if you choose to accept it, is to check out the first official poster for Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. It will self-destruct… never.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol Poster

Based on numbers and pure intimation, the poster is simple and to the point: this is Tom Cruise’s true comeback film, as he takes center stage once again as Ethan Hunt.

The action film finds this agent tracking the culprits behind a bombing at the Kremlin and opens on December 21. View the official Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol trailer now!

Charlie Sheen to Star in A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charlie Swan III

Having remained relatively quiet for the past few months, Charlie Sheen has taken the next step in an attempt to revive his acting career.

The former Golden Globe winner has signed on for A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charlie Swan III, Variety reports, which is an independent film written and  directed by Roman Coppola and co-starring Jason Schwartzman.

Sheen, Charlie

The film centers on a successful graphics designer/ladies man, who gets dumped by his current girlfriend and watches his life spiral out of control from there. It will mark Sheen’s first major film role since the start of Two and a Half Men in 2002.

It’s been an eventful year for Sheen, who ha gotten divorced, gone to the hospital on numerous occasions for alleged drug overdoses, partied with many porn stars and gotten himself fired from the highest-rated sitcom on television.

[Photo: Fame Pictures]