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Sony Softened ‘Concussion’ to Avoid NFL’s Wrath, Leaked Emails Show

Script altered, marketing strategy changed so Sony would “[tell] a dramatic story and not [kick] the hornet’s nest”

Concussion

The football drama 'Concussion' altered its script and marketing strategy to avoid a potential legal showdown with the NFL, leaked emails reveal

Sony Pictures

In the upcoming film Concussion, Will Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the physician who discovered a link between brain trauma and football players. The trailer for the film finds Omalu first diagnosing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and hinted at the NFL’s efforts to downplay the situation and keep it from public view. However, the drama might not be as hard-hitting as the trailer suggests.

According to leaked emails uncovered from the Sony hack, the production company, Smith’s reps and director Peter Landesman discussed how to alter the film by removing scenes from the script that provoked the NFL, the New York Times reports. As Concussion‘s first trailer shows, the film is being marketed as a whistleblower story rather than an attack on the NFL, a multi-billion dollar corporation that “owns a day of the week,” as one character says in the preview.

In one email, it’s noted that “unflattering moments for the NFL” were deleted from the script, while a Sony lawyer emailed in July 2014 that “most of the bite” was taken out of Concussion for “legal reasons.” Sony even discussed the hiring of a consultant to help the company work with the NFL on the film to make sure Sony was “telling a dramatic story and not kicking the hornet’s nest.” Smith’s reps also warned that the actor would not take an anti-NFL stance when promoting the film.

However, Landesman tells the Times that the edits to the script were an attempt to make the film even more bulletproof, as the more invented elements of Concussion were scrubbed so the NFL couldn’t question the integrity of the movie by targeting those confabulated scenes. While the critically acclaimed baseball film Moneyball was based on a true story, the film was equally criticized for its departure from what actually happened. Concussion, in turn, made efforts to be more fact-based than a cinematic retelling.

“We don’t want to give the NFL a toehold to say, ‘They are making it up,’ and damage the credibility of the movie,” Mr. Landesman said of the altered script, adding that the changes made the film “better and richer and fairer.”

In This Article: NFL, Will Smith

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