Will Smith is ready to tackle the controversy over his new film, Concussion. When writer and director Peter Landesman initially crafted the script, he envisioned Will taking on the role of Dr. Bennett Omalu, who discovered brain injury induced by football. And to persuade Smith to portray the Nigerian forensic neuropathologist featured in Concussion, Landesman enlisted Ridley Scott, reported USA Today.
“Will was in this movie months before he even knew it,” commented Landesman.
However, as a father who calls himself a “football dad,” Smith felt conflicted regarding starring in a movie that focused specifically on the way in which the NFL did not heed the medical concerns for athletes.
“Deeply conflicting,” summed up Will of how he initially felt. “I didn’t want (the brain injuries) to be the reality, and, at a minimum, I didn’t want it to be me who had to say it.”
However, while he was making the decision, Ridley Scott called. One of the producers of Concussion, Scott urged Will to take on the role. In addition, Smith talked with Dr. Omalu himself about the movie and his hesitations.
But now that the football film has been made, Will is earning praise from the neuropathologist.
“What struck me on set was his emotional expression of me, his body language, the looks in his eyes, his face. He got it perfect,” declared Dr. Omalu of the actor.
But the football film is attracting increasing controversy over whether producers softened it for the NFL, reported Variety.
The world debut of Concussion attracted everyone from movie stars to football pros, as well as executives from Sony. Gathering at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood Tuesday to celebrate the film’s premiere, those involved with the football movie also discussed the fact that the topic of how concussions have impacted football players is exceptionally sensitive with regard to the National Football League.
Will Smith credited his meeting with Dr. Omalu for motivating him to take on the role. However, as a father who raised a son involved in high school football, Smith also believes that Concussion has an important message for everyone from football pros to parents.
“There is a certain truth to the science that people aren’t aware of,” declared Will. “There are professional football players and parents who don’t have this information so for me it illuminates a reality around the game.”
After playing two years of football in college himself, Peter Landesman (who both wrote and directed), emphasizes that the goal of those involved in Concussion was to focus on the human interest aspect of the plot rather than the National Football League. Dr. Omalu has a foundation designed to promote research into concussions as well as CTE. And as evidenced by the hashtag #ForThePlayers, the emphasis is on the humans impacted rather than a group.
“The idea that we softened it to placate the NFL is nonsense,” defended the writer/director. “Anybody who sees the movie will see that’s actually a laughable subject matter and this is a movie that shoots the NFL between the eyes on that subject.”
As for Will Smith in the real life role of football father, it’s his son Trey who was involved in the sport in high school, according to Page Six.
Trey even interacted with Joe Montana’s son as well as Wayne Gretzky’s son during his high school football experience.
“I’ve never had more fun as a parent than watching my son catch that football. . . My son played for four years at a football powerhouse, Oaks Christian [School],” recalled Will. “The big concern for me was spinal injury. . . Never once. . . was there a conversation about the possibility of long-term brain injury from playing football.”
However, when he learned from Dr. Omalu about just how frequently football players experience chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the extent of that brain disease made Smith determined to do justice to the role.
[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]