Another controversy is brewing about the new Will Smith head-trauma film “Concussion” one day after its trailer debuted on the web and three months before it’s scheduled to hit theaters. According to a story published in “The New York Times” on Tuesday, where the paper cites studio emails leaked in the hack of Sony Pictures, the film ”Concussion” was altered to avoid antagonizing the NFL. The Times quoted one email that discusses a top Sony lawyer taking ”most of the bite” out of the film ”for legal reasons with the NFL.”
Smith portrays a Pittsburgh-based forensic pathologist, Bennett Omalu, who discovered that chronic brain damage factored into the deaths of professional football players in the league. That chronic brain damage Omalu discovered is a neurodegenerative disease named Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy–and over time causes depression, dementia and other behavioral changes in the player. Regarding dialing back the film so it wouldn’t run afoul of the NFL, the film’s director disputed the allegation telling the Associated Press in a statement that “Concussion” was, “a David and Goliath story.” Peter Landesman said, ”We always intended to make an entertaining, hard-hitting film about Dr. Omalu’s David-and-Goliath story, which played out like a Hollywood thriller…Anyone who sees the movie will know that it never once compromises the integrity and the power of the real story.”
Landesman went on to tell The Times, ”We’re just being smart because any large corporation will design a response to something it considers to be a threat to its existence. We don’t want to give the NFL a toehold to say, `They are making it up,’ and damage the credibility of the movie.”
At issue is whether the film was shaped, tweaked, or altered through negotiation with the NFL in order to get the film released by a major studio. The NFL is known for its vigorous and zealous protection of its image before the world. The film markets itself as a true story and if there are revelations about disregard of any type of the player’s health for profit of the league, this could be a public relations nightmare for the NFL during the upcoming season, and maybe beyond.
Sony Pictures and the NFL declined to comment on the report. However, Jeff Miller, NFL senior vice president of health and safety policy, said on the record,
the league is ”encouraged by the ongoing focus” on player safety. ”We all know more about this issue than we did 10 or 20 years ago,” said Miller. ”As we continue to learn more, we apply those learnings to make our game and players safer.”
“Concussion” opens in theaters nationwide on Christmas Day.
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