June 18, 2019

The Ebola Drama You Never Wanted

““He leans over, head on his knees, and brings up an incredible quantity of blood from his stomach and spills it onto the floor with a gasping groan. … Then comes a sound like a bedsheet being torn in half, which is the sound of his bowels opening at the sphincter and venting blood.”

Oh, sorry, didn’t know you were eating. That quote is from Richard Preston’s “The Hot Zone,” his 1994 nonfiction book about Ebola that focuses on the only known outbreak in the United States. Reading it is guaranteed to have you ordering your own Hazmat suit and regarding any coughing or heavily perspiring person with the utmost suspicion. The book is also the source for a new National Geographic six-part thriller, and it’s fair to say the project hasn’t enjoyed the best of luck over the years.

Producer Lynda Obst bought the film rights to Preston’s original October 1992 New Yorker article “Crisis in the Hot Zone” for $100,000 back in 1993, hiring James V. Hart (fresh at the time off “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” which highlights how old this project is) to pen the script. Ridley Scott was brought on board to direct, while Jodie Foster and Robert Redford both flirted with the project – the latter reportedly wanting more screen time and a romantic subplot with Foster’s character, which perhaps explains why she swiftly exited the movie.”

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