Contagion Stars: Don’t Panic After Seeing Our Film

Matt Damon, Jennifer Ehle and costars talk hand washing and microbiology at NYC premiere.
Stars line up at the premiere of Contagion in NYC. (Photo: Getty Images)
Sep 8, 2011
Exec. Prod. of Franchises & Series. He previously reported for HuffPost, L.A. Daily Journal, and Biloxi Sun-Herald.

The stars (and the Purell) were out in force last night at the Time Warner Center in New York City for the premiere of Contagion, the new thriller about the outbreak of a deadly airborne virus. Handshakes were at a minimum as talk of public health and germaphobia dominated the red carpet, though few in the star-studded cast seemed too concerned.

It’s about not panicking and understanding that there will always be people trying to sell fear.

Elliot Gould waxed philosophical with reporters about the nature of paranoia, while Jennifer Ehle praised the Columbia University microbiologist who put her through a crash course in viruses before filming. Matt Damon, head shaved for his role in Elysium, had more immediate concerns: the Boston native took a few shots at the the hometown Yankees before dodging the inevitable question about his future in politics. “I’ve already got a job that I love,” he said.

TP: Any tips for people when they walk out of this movie?
Matt Damon: I think it’s about not panicking and understanding that there will always be people trying to sell fear. Try to understand where that information is coming from. Try to look one step past the information you’re getting and who’s giving it to you and why they might be giving it to you in that way and then try to make your decisions. Sometimes it might mean just tuning those people out.

Johnny Weir, on his obsession with staying germ-free: I even clean hotel rooms—I’m that guy.

TP: How do you think you’d respond to this kind of crisis?
Sanaa Lathan: I’m one of those people who goes into survival mode—that’s just my nature. I’d do what has to be done!

TP: Are you more of a germaphobe after doing this movie?
Anna Jacoby-Heron: We all are living; it’s not like we can worry about it every second. Germs are a part of life; we’ve just gotta deal with it.

Jennifer Ehle, on studying microbiology at Columbia for two days before filming: For about 48 hours I understood a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a tip of a tip of a tip of an iceberg, but the portal has now closed and I remember nothing whatsoever. I got a certificate at the end saying I could practice microbiology absolutely nowhere; it’s on my mantle.

Jennifer Ehle: I’m a soap and water girl more than a hand-sanitizer person. I don’t want to put more chemicals on me; I’d rather just wash things off than put things on.

Elliot Gould: Life is about evolving. Even though, as we know, there are so many people who have come to the fore who don’t even believe in evolution. It’s pretty frightening.

Scott Z. Burns: I hit a tipping point and I’m not that freaked out about germs anymore. Now that I said that, I’m going to get sick for sure.

As told to TakePart.

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

Contagion was produced by TakePart's parent company, Participant Media.
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