Scott Z. Burns

Scott Z. Burns

Side Effects marks the third collaboration between screenwriter Scott Z. Burns and director Steven Soderbergh. They previously tackled the mind of a bipolar pathological liar with The Informant and a horror-esque “what if?” movie with Contagion. For Side Effects, they’re not taking on pharmaceuticals, but a twisty thriller in the vein of Fatal Attraction and Body Heat. This is the type of movie that drops a new piece of information in almost every scene, causing you to rethink most of what you previously saw. Burns accomplished that with a split narrative starring characters who aren’t exactly the most noble. An ensemble movie with characters one can’t really root for is something of a rare commodity these days, and from the sounds of it, it’s something Burns would like to see (and write) more of. Here’s what screenwriter Scott Z. Burns had to say about constructing ensemble narratives, how Russian literature inspired Side Effects, and some of his frustrations with the studio storytelling norms:

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Side Effects

If Side Effects truly is Steven Soderbergh‘s final theatrical film, the director has ended his storied career on a somewhat surprising note – Side Effects surely combines all the character intrigue and well-crafted filmmaking technique we expect from Soderbergh, but its seemingly unoriginal plotline will likely fall flat with a number of viewers. And yet, that does read “seemingly,” because bundled up within Scott Z. Burns’ relatively straightforward thriller-influenced screenplay is one hell of an intriguing story, one that will linger with its dedicated viewers for far longer than its swiftly-moving 106 minute runtime. It’s not Magic Mike or Ocean’s Eleven or even Erin Brockovich, but Side Effects is a more than worthy film for anyone to end their career (well, maybe) on. Side Effects benefits most from fresh viewings and relatively uninformed audience members, ones not steeped in trailers and television spots (in fact, a couple of recent TV spots for the film have revealed far more than this critic would have liked), but the basic plot can be shared without concern over potential spoiling. Rooney Mara stars as Manhattanite Emily, a reserved young wife who is trying to delicately balance the pieces of her life in the wake of what should be a pleasant change – the recent release of her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), from a white collar prison after a four year stint for some messy professional mistakes. Emily has a history of anxiety, one that certainly wasn’t aided by Martin’s legal troubles, and things are […]

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Side Effects trailer

Rumors of Steven Soderbergh‘s retirement have been greatly exaggerated (seriously, guys, that’s just not happening), but the director’s supposed “next-to-last” film, Side Effects, has perhaps been the victim of not enough exaggeration and chatter. The Rooney Mara-starring film also features Soderbergh returning players Channing Tatum and Jude Law (and even comes with a screenplay by Contagion‘s Scott Z. Burns), but it’s flown quite spectacularly under the radar. The only thing resembling an official synopsis for the film, as reflected over at the film’s IMDb page, promises that Side Effects centers on “a woman [who] turns to prescription medication as a way of handling her anxiety concerning her husband’s upcoming release from prison.” And yet, this first trailer feels more in the spirit of some sort of infidelity thriller, like Unfaithful or Closer, though those prescription drugs are definitely present. So just how much of all the dark drama we glimpse in this first trailer is real…and how much of it is in Mara’s seemingly drug-addled brain? We can’t wait to find out. Swallow down the first trailer for Side Effects after the break. It will go down quite nicely, we promise.

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First he caused a worldwide viral epidemic, and now he’s aiding and abetting the threatening dominance of a bunch of super smart apes. This has got to be treason right? According to The Hollywood Reporter, Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, The Informant!, The Bourne Ultimatum, not pictured above) will be writing the script for the Rise of the Planet of the Apes sequel for Fox. It’s a solid choice, not just for his abilities, but because the sequel is set to see humanity struggling with the now-sentient beasts and with a virus that threatens the end of the species. It’s just like what happened to the native Americans before the European settlers got here. It looks like the apes will let tiny infections do their mass dirty work for them. Storywise, this is a great solution for a difficult problem. After all, even if they’re incredibly smart, there’s no way that a few dozen apes could take over the planet from 7 billion humans. We’d be hunting them for sport in a matter of months. But if we’re obliterated by illness? It’s a different story. And won’t it be ironic when the apes are immune to the strain because of years of lab testing? Oh, cruel fate. Still, we should figure out whose side Burns is on here.

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Well, this is certainly going to make my piece about the Sherlock Homes: A Game of Shadows (coming next week! only here at Film School Rejects!) press conference a touch more interesting. Deadline Ratcliff reports that Warner Bros. is currently “making a deal” with director Guy Ritchie and his new partner Lionel Wigram to “come aboard” their The Man From U.N.C.L.E. feature that was recently vacated by director Steven Soderbergh. That’s really just sort of vague – Deadline has really buried the lede on this one, finally getting to it – “the intention is for Ritchie to direct the film.” A ha! Elementary! Ritchie and Wigram recently formed their own production company after making two Sherlock Holmes films together. Wigram wrote and produced the first Sherlock Holmes film, and serves as executive producer on the next installment, opening next week. Wigram has a bevy of other titles under his producer belt, including four Harry Potter films, August Rush, and the upcoming films The Seventh Son and Arthur & Lancelot. Also – the dude was the second unit director on Cool as Ice, so you know what that makes him? Cool as ice. The film still comes complete with a script by Scott Z. Burns, but Soderbergh’s reasons for leaving – including budget struggles and trouble casting the lead – don’t just disappear with Ritchie and Wigram getting on board. Wait, what am I saying? We might as well cast Robert Downey, Jr. in this right now.

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Remember back when Steven Soderbergh was going to retire? Yeah, that doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen. Recently the director was all set to make a big screen adaptation of the old TV show The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which was going to be one of his last movies ever; but once casting and budget problems got too out of hand on that project, the director decided to drop it and move on with his life. That sounds like a pretty obvious decision for a man who has said repeatedly in interviews that he’s over the whole filmmaking thing and wants to move on. Why tear your hair out dealing with a movie that just isn’t coming together? But, in comparison, the newest move the director has made makes less sense, given the context of his recent comments. According to THR he has signed on for a new project called The Bitter Pill. This new film will see Soderbergh re-teaming with his The Informant! and Contagion writer Scott Z. Burns, and is said to be a thriller set in the world of psychopharmacology. Little else is known about the project, however.

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Considering that the casting process for Warner Bros. and Steven Soderbergh’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E. adaptation has given me, a completely uninvolved outsider, nothing but headaches, it’s not shocking that The Playlist is reporting that the filmmaker has dropped out of the project for that very same reason. The outlet reports that Soderbergh and the studio were unable to reach agreements regarding both casting and budget, and that the helmer has since left the project, which he has been developing with scribe Scott Z. Burns for nearly two years. The film was originally set to star George Clooney, who dropped out due to an injury, which only paved the way for WB to jump on younger casting options, the last two of which included Bradley Cooper (last month) and Channing Tatum (just this week). Other rumored names included Michael Fassbender, Matt Damon, Joel Edgerton, Ryan Gosling, and even Johnny Depp. Of course, none of these names have signed on for the film (with most of them never even getting an official offer), and most of them have moved on to other projects. Adding to those woes? The studio also reportedly offered up a $60m budget for the film, one that will need to have an A-list star, a slick sixties setting, and a globe-trotting sensibility. Ouch.

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Disney and Fox are both developing their own takes. Let’s look at each and see who will come out on top.

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