×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

NFL Faces Repeated Blows from Hollywood in Concussion-Centered Films

Hollywood is warming up to tackle the National Football League with several projects that focus on concussion-related brain injuries among players. Each of the works could shed new light on the most contentious issue plaguing both the sport and the league.

Given the nature of these projects and Hollywood’s vast platform, this wouldn’t be the first time the industry could bring change via entertainment ventures — like the spotlight Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s docu “Blackfish” put on Sea World, or how “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” lit a fire for mental health reform.

“I’m intrigued by football and brain injuries,” says producer Brian Grazer, noting that he touched on the subject in Imagine’s “Friday Night Lights” TV series. “Depending on the approach of these movies, they can penetrate the social consciousness and absolutely affect behavior.”

Sony Pictures, along with Scott Free Prods. and the Shuman Co., is developing a script with Peter Landesman based on Jeanne Marie Laskas’ 2009 GQ story “Game Brain,” which centers on neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a condition caused by repeated blows to the head. Will Smith is set to star as Omalu.

“The scientific community has been trying to tell this story for a long time,” says Laskas, a consultant on the project. “But obviously the NFL doesn’t want concussions to be a part of the narrative when we watch football.”

Meanwhile, Parkes/MacDonald Prods. is developing a project based on the book “League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth,” which also served as the basis of a 2013 documentary by PBS’ “Frontline.” The TV docu was originally co-produced by ESPN, which airs “Monday Night Football” and withdrew from the production amid allegations it had been pressured by the NFL.

And Matthew Cherry, a former NFL wide receiver-cum-filmmaker, is in the final stages of securing financing for “Game Time Decision,” a script he wrote that follows the relationship between an estranged father suffering from CTE and his son, a star college quarterback.

“For a long time, the NFL was saying ‘There isn’t an issue here,’” Cherry says. “Now players and their families know the dangers, and it’s on them to proceed.” In August 2013, the NFL reached a $765 million settlement for concussion-related brain injuries of retired players, who, at that time numbered roughly 18,000.

Brian Rolapp, exec VP of NFL Media, says that none of the producers of these projects-in-the-works has approached him either about licensing rights or permission to use team names or logos. “All I would hope is that anyone who is making those films or reporting on the issue would be responsible enough to base it all on the facts,” he says.

On the smallscreen, Peter Berg (who directed the 2004 movie “Friday Night Lights” and worked as a writer-director-executive producer on the “Friday Night Lights” TV show) is exploring the subject in “Culture Shock,” the Nov. 11 debut installment of his sports-themed documentary limited series “State of Play” on HBO.

Adds Laskas: “With all of this talk of the NFL and concussions, it’s going to be loud now.”

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • Vanessa Kirby poses for photographers at

    Vanessa Kirby to Star in Drama 'Pieces of a Woman' (EXCLUSIVE)

    “Hobbs & Shaw” actress Vanessa Kirby is in negotiations to star in the Bron Studios pic “Pieces of a Woman,” sources tell Variety. Kornél Mundruczó will direct with Kata Wéber penning the script. Reps for Kirby could not be reached for comment. Specific plot details are being kept under wraps, but it is known that [...]

  • Suki WaterhouseSave the Children Centennial Celebration,

    Dark Castle, HanWay, Ingenious Team on 'Séance' From 'Blair Witch' Scribe Simon Barrett

    Dark Castle Entertainment, HanWay Films and Ingenious Media have partnered on horror film “Séance,” directed by “Blair Witch” scribe Simon Barrett. Set in an all-girls boarding school haunted by a vengeful spirit, the film stars Suki Waterhouse (“Assassination Nation,” “The Bad Batch”) as Camille, a young woman who arrives at the Fairfield Academy following one [...]

  • The Black List

    The Black List Reveals India Plans

    The Black List, an online yearly survey that features Hollywood’s most popular unpublished screenplays, is all set to make an imprint in India. The survey’s founder Franklin Leonard revealed this during a masterclass at the ongoing Mumbai film festival, where he is also serving as the head of the India Gold competition jury. “One of [...]

  • China Pavilion at TIFFCOM 2019

    'Still Life' Remake Heads for Japan-China Fund Backing

    A Japanese-language remake of British drama “Still Life” could be the first film to flow from a fund created to support Chinese-Japanese joint productions. The fund is operated by WeF Cultural Investment Media, a company founded earlier this year with the backing of government bodies in Beijing and Qingdao — the Chinese coastal city which [...]

  • Kanye West

    Kanye West to Preview ‘Jesus Is King’ Album and Film in Los Angeles on Wednesday

    On the heels of Monday’s announcement that Kanye West’s delayed “Jesus Is King” album will be released on Friday along with a companion IMAX film, the rapper will preview both projects at the Forum in Los Angeles on Wednesday, it was announced this morning. Tickets for the “Jesus Is King Album & Film Experience” will be [...]

  • Isabelle HuppertIsabelle Huppert Life Achievement Award,

    The Arcs Festival Taps Isabelle Huppert to Head The Talent Village For Young Helmers

    Guillaume Nicloux, the French director of “Valley of Love,” is set to preside over the jury of the Arcs Film Festival, while the iconic French actress Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”) will be the patron of the second edition of the Talent Village. Created last year, the Talent Village is a development workshop and platform for emerging [...]

  • Isaac Perlmutter Disney Marvel

    Does Kevin Feige's Marvel Promotion Mean Ike Perlmutter's Endgame?

    Last week’s move giving Kevin Feige charge of Marvel’s television, animation and print editorial operations should come as no surprise. As the architect of the company’s enormous film success, Feige arguably has the most enviable track record of any contemporary entertainment executive. Extending his creative control over more of the Marvel universe seems like a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content