Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion wasn’t a monster hit when it hit theaters nine years ago. It did alright, though! But this year it finally found the huge audience it deserves. Why? Because it’s about a pandemic that comes awfully close to destroying society. Of course, nearly a year into our own pandemic, we now know that things would play out a little differently. Perhaps that’s why the Oscar-winning filmmaker is hard at work on what he calls a “philosophical sequel” to his 2011 disaster drama.
Soderbergh broke the news on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, but he didn’t offer any real details beyond saying they’d be similar but different. For one thing, they’ll have the same screenwriter, Scott Z. Burns, who’s worked with the filmmaker on a number of projects, including The Informant! and Side Effects. “”Scott and I had been talking about, ‘So, what’s the next iteration of a Contagion-type story?’” he said, adding that it will look at the issue from “a different context.”
Does that mean it will be a different pandemic, perhaps one that occurs when the president is…well, you know, not all there, to put it mildly? Who knows! But the way he describes is people will “kind of look at the two of them as kind of paired but very different hair colors.”
Presumably that means few, if any, of Contagion’s all-star cast will return, among them Matt Damon, Jude Law, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Bryan Cranston, and — the one whose sudden death starts it all — Gwyneth Paltrow.
That film, whose own pandemic begins with a bat being displaced by rainforest-destroying developers, concluded with 2.5 million dead in the U.S. and 26 million worldwide. But it also saw Americans largely working together to combat a highly contagious virus, even taking the vaccine en masse. Amazingly, the far right conspiracy theorists, led by Jude Law’s Andrew Breitbart-esque web journalist, never quite take over. Who knew, in 2011, that Contagion would one day become escapist fare?