As three National Football League teams fight for the right to move into the lucrative L.A. market, the league is about to be hit with some uncomfortable publicity by a Hollywood movie.
The Christmas Day release “Concussion,” starring Will Smith, is the first major film to examine links between playing professional football and subsequent brain damage.
Peter Landesman, the L.A. writer and director of the Sony Pictures Entertainment drama, said his film sticks to the facts in dramatizing the early deaths of NFL stars who suffered from dementia and depression. But he admits the movie could make uneasy viewing for those who love the nation’s favorite sport.
“Like any gigantic business, there are powerful interests invested in keeping it going, no matter what the cost. I hope the film makes the facts known. The stakes couldn’t be higher,” said the former investigative journalist in a statement.
Smith plays forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu, the crusading doctor who first uncovered the ugly truth. The actor said he felt a responsibility to get the film made.
“The thing that impelled me to make this movie is that as a parent I had to put the information out for parents and players to be able to make an informed decision,” said Smith in a statement. “I’m a football dad. I have two sons and my oldest, Trey, was a big-time football player. I was concerned about my son breaking his leg but there was no conversation about long-term neurological repercussions. As a parent, how could I have no information?”
The NFL promises that player safety is a priority, and that it has learned from past experience and medical research.
“As we continue to learn more, we apply those learnings to make our game and players safer,” said Jeff Miller, the NFL’s senior vice president of health and safety policy, in a statement.
In its 20th anniversary year, Westwood’s Geffen Playhouse has appointed Gil Cates Jr., the son of its late founder Gil Cates, as executive director. Cates Sr. was also known for producing the Academy Awards a record 14 times.
“It means everything to be able to build upon what my father started, to keep the core audience and expand to the next generation of theatergoers,” said Cates, who also works as a film producer.
With so much technology available these days, Cates acknowledged that it will be a challenge to get the younger generation away from their screens and into Geffen seats for live plays.
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