Podcast: Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns on Contagion

Matt Damon in Contagion.

Matt Damon in Contagion

Screenwriter Scott Burns.

Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns

Ever wonder, when you dip your fingers into a bowl of nuts at the bar or a mint tray at the hostess stand, how many other people have done the same (and where their fingers have been)? Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (The Bourne Ultimatum) did. He was fascinated by the thought. So much so, he pitched his idea of a fatal disease, that spreads like the common cold, through doorknobs and turnstiles, to director Steven Soderbergh while they worked together on 2009’s The Informant!. Burns’ pitch grew into the action-thriller Contagion, starring Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Marion Cotillard. Script sat down with Burns to talk multiple storylines, multiple locations, and keeping his fingers on the keyboard and out of the nut bowl.

Podcast highlights:

  • “Blank paper is both a warning and an invitation …”
  • “I may have some ideas about things, but I try not to fall in love with them.”
  • “If you’re falling in love with a piece of language in a movie, you have to be really careful.”

Click below to listen:

7 thoughts on “Podcast: Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns on Contagion

  1. Barbara Lifton

    Re: “Contagion”: I would be interested in reading the original script of this excellent movie. Could someone please inform me where I can purchase a copy? Thank you. Barbara LIfton.

  2. Dan O'Donnell

    Just saw the movie with my wife and we both liked it quite a lot. The screenplay was good, the direction was good, the cinematography was good. Liked how one of the big name actors was not a sympathetic character – and died; but another was sympathetic and a potential heroine – but died anyway. Really liked some of the sequences, e.g. when the casino surveillance video showed how the Paltrow character contracted the virus, and also when the vaccine was announced the sequence depicting how complicated and time consuming the distribution would be. The screenwriters admonition of “show them, don’t tell them” was perfectly illustrated in both of those sequences. It was a really good movie.

  3. Dakota

    Four friends and I went to see ‘Contagion’ opening weekend. The slower the story moved, another jolt of that loud and louder music, seemed to be reminding us to pay attention.
    When it was over, my first thought was I had just watched a documentary on how deadly disease might travel presented as an action/thriller film. “Was that a movie? my compamions and I wondered.
    Although we waited (and waited) none of us saw the ‘action’ and completely missed the ‘thriller’ parts as well.
    We all went because Matt Damon was starring. Ah, perhaps the power of casting might account for that $20 million opening weekend?

  4. Diana Devlin

    Big congrats to Scott Burns! You can’t argue with an estimated $20 million weekend at the box office nor with a script you haven’t read BUT part of the $20 million was my ticket price and I’m wondering if others found this movie nigh unto boring? I had never seen Gwyneth’s character with her husband (Matt Damon) but i did know she’d just cheated on him — so I really didn’t feel any emotion about his losing her. The loud, heavy-beat music did not create the drama that the action lacked – in fact it was too loud, repetitive and really annoying. On the good side I think the movie will sell a lot of hand sanitizer and of course, movie tickets.

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