April 26, 2003
WHO Convenes Emergency Meeting of Hollywood Screenwriters to Combat SARS

In a move some called desperate and others hailed as an attempt at a creative solution to a difficult problem, the World Health Organization formed a "think tank" of Hollywood screenwriters and directors to craft strategies that would stem the spread of the pulmonary disease SARS.

George Lucas proposed naming the initiative "SARS Wars," and said that, with some luck, they could "drag the thing out" for a good twenty to twenty-five years, turning it into "a surefire franchise." "The merchandising possibilities alone are staggering," he added.

Other had more useful suggestions. Director Michael Bay (Armageddon) suggested rounding up all the people suspected of having the disease, blasting them off into space, marooning them on a giant asteroid, and then sending a team of blue-collar oil rig workers to blow them up.

Writer-director James Cameron (Terminator, Terminator 2) suggested sending a killer robot with an Austrian accent back in time to track down and annihilate the doctor who originally treated the disease and exposed countless people by jetting around the globe before returning to Hong Kong and dying from the illness. "It might not eradicate the disease altogether," Cameron said, "but it might go a long way towards discouraging rank stupidity."

Robert Towne (Chinatown) said he said some good ideas but hadn't yet come up with a good story structure. "I've got one or two plot points, but that's it." He then asked some questions about the Chinese water supply and whether any orange groves existed near Hong Kong. "They're probably the key to the whole thing," he said.

Roman Polansky (Chinatown") was unable to attend the conference because it was held in Los Angeles.

Michael Crichton (The Andromeda Strain, Jurassic Park) suggested making a female virus that's like a black widow -- "it mates with the male virus and eats the male during the sex act" -- that has infertile viral progeny, killing off the species. When told the virus was asexual, Crichton pooh-poohed the whole thing. "Nobody's really asexual," he said. "it's all about sex. Survival. Reproduction. Nature finds a way. Haven't you read just one of my books?"

Buzz Meritt (Producer: Dragnet 2: Joe Friday Takes A Vacation, Remake of Flintstones 3 (the movie), working on a sequel to The In-Laws called The In-laws-In-Law, Gilligan's Island: The Becoming) said, "We could do that whole Fantastic Voyage thing. Shrink a team of scientists and a microscopic sub -- a handsome guy, a babe, some bald-headed genius, maybe someone else for comedic relief -- inject them into the body of someone with SARS. They grapple with the virus while, unbeknownst to them , a member of their own team -- who's say, a secret fundamentalist religious nut who believes SARS was God's plan to bring about the end of the world -- is working to sabotage them -- and then there's the whole potential for romance between the lead guy and the girl. And it's complicated because even though he's falling for her, and she for him, the guy they've been injected to is her fiance. Man, that's just brilliant. Anyway, it works out, they get a sample of the virus and witness how it works so they know how to defeat it -- they get out and we create nanorobots or something to inject into everyone else that stops them from getting it. Something like that." He got up to make a quick cell phone call to "his people," adding "whether or not you use it -- it's mine."

Posted by Tom Burka at 10:34 PM in News