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Ebola is already all over your TV. Seriously, it’s just covered in Ebola right now, but that’s going to intensify soon, thanks, in large part, to Blade Runner director Ridley Scott. The filmmaker is going to take a detour in his busy schedule to produce, and likely direct the first episode of a limited event series based on Richard Preston’s best-selling book The Hot Zone. Subtitled A Terrifying True Story, the book recounts the origins and incidents involving the notorious hemorrhagic fever.
There’s been talk of turning The Hot Zone into a movie for years, Jodie Foster was going to star at one point. First published in 1994—adapted from an article Preston wrote for The New Yorker in 1992—it came out just as movies like Outbreak were sweeping the nation and causing widespread public alarm. To call the book hyperbolic and sensationalist is putting it a bit mildly, but it’s a hell of a read, and absolutely terrifying to boot. If you’re currently having any worries about Ebola, however, you should probably leave this one on the shelf.
Now the book is going to be split into an unspecified number of episodes. Scott is working with Jim Hart, Lynda Obst, and David Zucker, and they’re teaming up with Fox TV for the project. Though there is no timeline for when this will happen, it’s certainly timely, and the interest has never been higher. Despite the nonfiction tag, Preston’s books is describe as and framed as a thriller, following those who track the disease, among other things, and should make for an entertaining watch.
Preston has another article coming out in The New Yorker next week, revisiting the virus 20 years later and discussing the current outbreak and concern. Scott and company plan to incorporate that material and the recent events into their narrative.
Scott and Obst have been working on this without much fanfare for the last year, and even hired Jeff Vintar (I, Robot) to adapt the book. But while this is a fairly recent thing, the duo has owned the rights for years, picking them up all the way back in ‘94 and holding onto them ever since. Like I said, it’s a hell of a story, and maybe they just needed the right time to unleash it on the world.
Broken into four sections, The Hot Zone traces the origins of Ebola and other filoviruses like Marburg Virus, Sudan Virus, and Ravn Virus. It digs into the origins of these diseases and chronicles patients who have been infected. It then recounts the famous incident where an Ebola relative, the Reston Virus, was found at a primate research facility in Reston, Virginia, near Washington D.C., and the fallout from that situation. It wraps up with Preston in Africa visiting Kitum Cave, where the natural host animals of Ebola are thought to live. And, at the very end, Preston concludes by saying that Ebola will be back, and it looks like he was right.