A new film centered around traumatic brain injuries caused by football might not be as damaging to the NFL as many initially anticipated.
“Concussion,” which stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the man who discovered CTE, was altered by Sony Pictures Entertainment to avoid NFL backlash, hacked emails published by The New York Times revealed.
“In dozens of studio emails unearthed by hackers, Sony executives; the director, Peter Landesman; and representatives of Mr. Smith discussed how to avoid antagonizing the NFL by altering the script and marketing the film more as a whistle-blower story, rather than a condemnation of football or the league,” the Times’ Ken Belson wrote Wednesday.
Sony does not have a significant business relationship with the league.
The emails, which were sent between July and September of last year, reportedly discussed removing or changing some “unflattering moments for the NFL” and taking “most of the bite” out of the film “for legal reasons with the NFL and that it was not a balance issue.” An email from Sony Pictures’ president of domestic marketing, Dwight Caine, also reportedly stated the film’s marketing should show that “Will is not anti football (nor is the movie) and isn’t planning to be a spokesman for what football should be or shouldn’t be but rather is an actor taking on an exciting challenge.”
“We’ll develop messaging with the help of NFL consultant to ensure that we are telling a dramatic story and not kicking the hornet’s nest,” Caine reportedly wrote.
Both Sony and the NFL reportedly declined the Times’ requests for comment, but Landesman was willing to speak about his film. He acknowledged changes were made but said they were done so in an effort to portray the true story as accurately as possible and avoid taking too much creative license.
“We don’t want to give the NFL a toehold to say, ‘They are making it up,’ and damage the credibility of the movie,” the director told the Times.
“… There were things that might have been creatively fun to have actors say that might not have been accurate in the heads of the NFL or doctors. We might have gotten away with it legally, but it might have damaged our integrity as filmmakers. We didn’t have a need to make up anything because it was powerful and revelatory on its own.”
“… There was never an instance where we compromised the storytelling to protect ourselves from the NFL.”
The first trailer for the film, which is set to hit theaters this December, was released Monday.
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