Matt Damon leads an all-star cast in the new action-thriller Contagion, centered on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors contracted by the CDC to deal with the outbreak.
Contagion is a scary film, but not scary in a head-chopped-off kind of way, but a reminder of just how quickly an outbreak can change the world.
We caught up with Matt Damon to talk about his new movie and just how real things can get.
This movie was scary but in a real way. After shooting it, were you more aware of what could happen?
Yes, my whole family washes their hands more. But germs are a part of life and you need them to build up your immunities and part of that life means sharing community spaces. So our awareness is up, but we are not unreasonably scared.
We’re sure people meet you all the time and want to shake your hand because they love your work. So you think this might change some societal norms like shaking hands?
I don’t know, but Laurence has that line at the end about where shaking hands came from and why we do it. It’s essentially a dated practice. There’s no reason for me to show you that I’m not carrying a weapon. (Laughs) I think that’s assumed right? But still we do it, we are creatures of habit and culture, so I don’t see that really changing.
What do you think about contagion and other pathogens, and how the government might not tell everyone until it’s too late?
Well I think the media would be a big part, because how that was framed to people would dictate what the outcome might be. It’s not really about the virus, it’s about our reaction to it.
If you look at Anthrax, two people died and we shut down the airlines industry. That panic is potentially a lot more lethal than the actual virus could be.
You’re involved with H20 Africa. What was the motivation behind you getting into this organization?
We are now called Water.org and we are all over the place, not just in Africa. We are in India and Haiti, and hopefully we are going to be everywhere. There is a disturbing statisitic. Every 15 seconds a child under the age of 5 somewhere is dying due to lack of clean water. 4 kids a minute are dying and for a reason, it’s really hard for Americans to relate to because we never had the experience of not having water. If you need water you just go to the faucet and turn it on. There are water fountains at the park. There is an abundance of clean water for us. So even getting people to understand that this is a reality for so many people on the planet is the first hurdle that we have to clear.