The 2011 thriller “Contagion,” in which a fictional virus decimates the world population, has seen spikes in viewership since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. So Columbia University decided to work with the film’s stars to launch their own PSAs. It seemed like a constructive idea, but such an effort has shown there’s a sensitivity around how celebrities or influencers should speak out about the pandemic.
The backlash on social media is clear: Doctors and healthcare professionals are the true influencers when it comes to medical advice, not actors who once played doctors or scientists in movies.
Last week, the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health worked with actors from the film—Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard and Jennifer Ehle—to produce five PSAs and a compilation video (below) for the pandemic, which as of Tuesday has claimed more American lives than 9/11. The PSAs were all shot by the actors themselves, and written by “Contagion” screenwriter Scott Z. Burns under the guidance of the same Columbia doctors who worked as consultants for the Participant Media-produced film.