Film stars, football pros and Sony execs piled in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood Tuesday evening for the world premiere of “Concussion” during AFI Fest. The film, which has fielded controversy because of its sensitive subject matter regarding concussions and the game of football, has been most notably referred to as a hard hit to the National Football League.
Will Smith revealed on the red carpet that a meeting with Dr. Bennet Omalu made him want to portray the controversial medical examiner — and his son’s high school football career made it even easier to do so.
“There is a certain truth to the science that people aren’t aware of,” said Smith. “There are professional football players and parents who don’t have this information so for me it illuminates a reality around the game.”
Writer-director Peter Landesman, who played two years of college football, asserted that they only set out to tell the truth about a human interest story — with no regard for the NFL. In fact, the film supports Dr. Omalu’s eponymous foundation to advance CTE and concussion research, and its social media slogan, #ForThePlayers, shifts the focus to those affected, instead of the sports organization.
“The idea that we softened it to placate the NFL is nonsense,” responded Landesman to a report from The New York Times about the film’s alterations. “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.”
The news surrounding the film is no sweat for producing duo Ridley Scott and Giannina Scott. The couple laughed at their synced responses on the red carpet when Variety asked if the controversy surprised them at all. “When you have the facts and truth,” said Ridley Scott, “the people should simply be aware and it should be their decision.”
A Q&A followed the screening that featured Smith, Landesman, Dr. Omalu and star Albert Brooks — who supplied a couple of dirty jokes throughout. One of which brought out the famous neuropathologist’s distinctively high-pitch laugh, that Smith just could not master in time for the film.
“No woman should want to be laying down and look up to see you,” the actor quipped about the coroner’s love story in the film.
The after-party, hosted by Audi, was held across the street at The Roosevelt Hotel.
“Concussion” bows in theaters Christmas Day.
(Pictured: Sony’s Tom Rothman, Will Smith and Peter Landesman)