The Ebola disease has been top of mind worldwide for months and now a television miniseries is in the works. Fox TV studios has tapped producer Lynda Obst and veteran director Ridley Scott (Prometheus, Blade Runner) for the project. Producers say the pair has been developing the project for more than a year.
The miniseries is an adaptation of Richard Preston’s 19-94 book, The Hot Zone. The book, a best-seller, chronicles the origins and history of Ebola in the 1970s and 1990s, and what happened when a strain of the virus appeared in the U.S. The book came out of a short story Preston wrote for The New Yorker in 1992. He is currently working on another Ebola article for the magazine and will serve as consultant to the series.
The series will cover original outbreaks and the current situation which the series producer says is frightening to her as well as others paying attention to the spread of the virus. Obst says the concern is how fast the disease kills. She also expressed that fear may be due to people initially hoping the outbreak would stay isolated in a remote area of the world.
Producers say the series will be sensitive to the current state of the virus, but that the final project is far from completion. The virus was first diagnosed in West Africa in March. Since then, nearly 45 hundred people have died. Two American nurses are being treated for Ebola after coming in contact with a victim who succumbed to the virus in a Texas hospital earlier this month.
The book rights were optioned more than 20 years ago. Now, the current Ebola outbreak has made the series more timely. According to the Hollywood Reporter, at first there were plans to produce a film with actress Jodie Foster signed on. But that fell through and the Ebola script was broken down into a miniseries for television. A Fox News affiliate says Foster is no longer involved with the project. Producers say the miniseries structure works better than a regular film because it provides an opportunity to dig deeper into the story.
Scott Burns, the screenwriter who penned the epidemic film, Contagion says the Ebola virus itself does not scare him, it is the hysteria and fear surrounding the virus. Burns believes it can be contained as long as the right resources make it to the right people. The 2011 movie was partly designed to help prepare for similar threats and to show how mass hysteria can make pandemics much worse than they really are. Even though the virus in the film was fake, the science was not. Health experts were brought on as consultants to keep things factual.
Producers are currently working with Preston to incorporate his latest Ebola article into the TV series. Scott is said to be signed on to direct at least one episode and serve as Executive Producer along with Obst. The series is expected to roll out sometime in 2015, but no specific release date has been revealed.
By Angela Jones