Sometimes, it is still difficult to comprehend just how bad the year 2020 has been for the world. Dangers and threats that you only used to read about in history books and fiction novels suddenly became something real and immediate. The current global public health emergency caught most of the world’s general population by surprise. One person who was not very surprised was actor Jude Law. During a career retrospective with GQ, Law revealed how working on the 2011 movie Contagion prepared him for 2020.
“There was absolutely the sense that this was going to happen. The great scientists on set with us who had worked with Scott [Z. Burns] the writer and [director] Steven [Soderbergh] were very learned and experienced individuals who knew what to expect. And they all said to us that this was going to happen – and it was a case of when rather than if.”
Contagion told the story of a mysterious new virus that spread through respiratory droplets. As the government struggled to halt the spread of the virus, medical experts raced to find a vaccine in time, while social order broke down as the general public became increasingly desperate.
Jude Law played the role of Alan Krumwiede, an enthusiastic conspiracy theorist who is responsible for much of the disinformation regarding the virus that is spread amongst the population via the internet. While researching his role, Law spoke to many experts in the field of biomedical public health emergencies, and what they revealed to him about the state of the world with regards to new viruses prepared him for the bad news coming out of China in 2020.
“The way they described it, which is exactly as it has happened, just made sense. What’s scary is you learn in a set like that because you’re being advised by experts, but it doesn’t necessarily sit. When 2020 started, and we heard about what was initially happening in China, what fast became apparent around the world, it rang alarm bells. Unfortunately, I wasn’t hugely surprised.”
Since the start of the global lockdown earlier in the year, once the world collectively came to understand just how serious the situation was, Contagion has experienced a new burst of popularity, as viewers have found disturbing similarities between the movie and the world as it actually is in 2020. Back in May, Soderbergh weighed in on the eerie prescience of the movie he had created, while admitting even he had failed to realize the scope of panic a real-world health emergency could create.
“It’s been fascinating to see the aspects of this narrative play out that we didn’t think about. The sociological behavior, how people have behaved as individuals, as states, as countries – that’s been really fascinating. And something that very purposely, [screenwriter] Scott [Z. Burns] and I were trying to keep the narrative very focused and we had rules about points of view and what we can see and what we couldn’t see. But wow, there’s a lot of really fascinating human behavior that we didn’t even think about when we were doing this. It’s just a reminder of how deeply irrational we are. When we’re put into some sort of fear-threat space, we become deeply illogical. It’s crazy to witness.”