By James Hirsen, Special for USDR
As anxiety over Ebola intensifies, some big names in Hollywood are looking to profit from the public angst. According to The Hollywood Reporter, a television series that weaves the deadly Ebola pathogen into its plot is soon to come.
The series will be an update of the 1994 book written by Richard Preston titled “The Hot Zone.” Veteran film director Ridley Scott, best known for “Alien,” “Blade Runner,” “Thelma & Louise,” “Gladiator,” and the upcoming “Exodus Gods and Kings,” is attached to the project along with Lynda Obst, producer of the film “Sleepless in Seattle.” Scott will also soon be directing “Killing Jesus” for the National Geographic Channel, a project that will be based on Bill O’Reilly’s best-selling book of the same name.
Scott and Obst had actually optioned Preston’s book over two decades ago. The two began developing the story as a feature film with Jodie Foster playing the lead role, but they decided instead to pursue a limited miniseries for the Fox Broadcasting Company, a.k.a., the Fox Network.
“A limited series is a great way to do this because you don’t have to limit it to a three-act structure like you do with a film,” Obst explained to The Hollywood Reporter.
Preston has written an account of the recent Ebola outbreak for the New Yorker magazine, and Obst and Scott are negotiating for the rights to the article to integrate it into the miniseries.
Jeff Vintar, the screenwriter for “I, Robot,” will pen the adaptation.
Meanwhile in the real world several nations in Africa are attempting to cope with an outbreak of infections of the virus that numbers in the thousands, and in a tragic turn more than 4,000 lives have been lost.
News about the spread of the Ebola virus to the United States has also been dominating the headlines. The first Ebola victim ever within the borders of America lost his battle against the disease, and two nurses who rendered medical care to that same patient have tested positive. A freelance cameraman for NBC News is fighting the Ebola infection as well.
Entertainment content often takes its material from current news stories. The “CSI” and “Law & Order” television shows routinely feature “ripped from the headlines” plots. Made for cable docudramas, including HBO’s “Too Big to Fail,” which chronicles the 2008 international banking crisis, habitually springboard from current events, as do series with topical themes such as “Homeland,” “House of Cards” and the Hillary Clinton promotional vehicle, “Madam Secretary.”
Hollywood has specifically dealt with stories of viral epidemics in the past, particularly in cinema such as “Outbreak,” which tells the tale of an Ebola-like virus coming to the U.S. via a monkey, “28 Days Later,” about a highly contagious virus that turns people into killers, “The Crazies” in which a biological weapon in the form of a virus leaks into the water supply of a small town whose inhabitants are quarantined, and perhaps the most pertinent to the current crisis, “Contagion,” in which a deadly virus spreads through the population as medical professionals attempt to fight against a pandemic.
With all of the success the entertainment business has had with news related content, creative artists in Hollywood would be hard pressed to ignore what could turn out to be the biggest news story of our time. The Ebola crisis has garnered the attention of the public like no other current issue has, precisely because of its inherently dramatic composition and ability to generate fear and apprehension.
With regard to the present Ebola crisis, though, truth may end up being not only stranger than fiction, but even more chilling than an imaginary narrative.