CINEMA: Film Clipped

How everything went wrong when Robert Redford, Jodie Foster and a star director tried to make a $50 million movie based on a thrilling true story

It was late October 1992, the week that an issue of the New Yorker containing an article called "Crisis in the Hot Zone" appeared. Toby Brown read the story and, as if infected by a killer movie bug, shouted, "There's a great film here! I'm writing a screenplay on this right now!"

Brown has no experience in filmmaking; he is a radiologist in Manassas, Virginia. But like a few hundred thousand other readers of that week's New Yorker, he was enthralled by the cinematic possibilities of Richard Preston's chilling true story about scientists battling to contain the Ebola virus, which is...