Ridley Scott and Lynda Obst have had the rights to adapt Richard Preston's nonfiction best-seller The Hot Zone for two decades. And now that it's a timely property again, it'll be a miniseries for Fox.
That's actually a major departure from the original idea, which was a movie starring Jodie Foster. The new iteration has been quietly in the works for the past year, and is even now negotiating to include Preston's latest work on the current outbreak. The Hot Zone started as a New Yorker article in 1992, and Preston's already writing more for The New Yorker. He's been working with Obst and Scott on the miniseries, and they're in conversations to option the new article and add it to their adaptation.
Preston spoke to The New York Times about it today, and he's hoping for a non-fictionalized version:
Q. There are reports that "The Hot Zone" is being developed into a TV series for Fox. Will it be based on the book and the earlier outbreak you covered, or the current crisis?
A. I feel pretty confident that they're going to want to move the story into the current situation. Fox bought the rights to the book way back when, and there was this attempt by Fox to make a movie out of "The Hot Zone," and it tended tragically in a Hollywood disaster involving Robert Redford and Jodie Foster and Ridley Scott. But the rights have been sitting at Fox ever since. The original screenwriter for the Fox movie and the producer Lynda Obst teamed up and have proposed a TV series to Fox.
Q. Will the show be fictional or based on your reporting?
A. It's been the impulse in Hollywood to fictionalize it. I keep telling them: "Don't do that. Don't turn it into another predictable Hollywood drama."
No bets on whether he's actually going to be able to stop that from happening. Just take a look at The Hollywood Reporter describing the current state of the project. Keep an eye out for their awesome description of adding what's just been happening to the "limited series":
Scott, who would potentially direct at least the first episode, will serve as an executive producer alongside Obst, David Zucker and Jim Hart, who wrote the original feature screenplay Crisis in the Hot Zone. Once the disease's latest twist is incorporated into the series' script, Obst and Scott will take it out to networks.
Looks like we're still a bit out, so fingers crossed that it comes out next year and it's less timely. And, to switch away from the horrors in West Africa that I am not equipped to deal with, how on Earth is Scott going to fit this into his very packed schedule?