Magazine article Variety

NFL Faces Repeated Blows in Pic Projects

Magazine article Variety

NFL Faces Repeated Blows in Pic Projects

Article excerpt

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 TVuth," which also served as the basis of a 2013 documentary by PBS' "Frontline. …

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