*The Oscar buzz surrounding Will Smith’s portrayal of forensic neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu in “Concussion” would’ve been just a dream if the rapper-actor would’ve acted on his initial feelings about the upcoming football drama.
Although Smith’s hesitation stemmed from safety concerns about the sport upon seeing his son Trey play high school football, Page Six reports that he changed his mind about signing on to “Concussion” after talking to the real Omalu. The neuropathologist is noted for discovering the prevalence of the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) among football players.
“When I met with Dr. Bennet Omalu, I was hoping to God he would say something so that I didn’t have to make this movie,” Smith revealed during an intimate New York screening of “Concussion” with guests such as Usher, actress Gina Gershon, Roots drummer Questlove and “Friday Night Lights” filmmaker Peter Berg. “I was like, ‘Please just give me something . . . so I don’t have to make this movie.’”
Smith went on to express his joy in watching Trey play football, while acknowledging his feelings about injuries his son could sustain on the field.
“I’ve never had more fun as a parent than watching my son catch that football . . . My son played for four years at a football powerhouse, Oaks Christian [School],” he said. “The big concern for me was spinal injury . . . Never once . . . was there a conversation about the possibility of long-term brain injury from playing football.”
Smith’s remarks come amid reports of those behind “Concussion” altering the controversial movie to satisfy the NFL, seemed to be concerned about the issues brought up in the feature.
Despite the rumblings, Berg — who moderated a Q&A with Smith and “Concussion” director Peter Landesman — said:
“This is a film that’s not afraid to take on a very large and powerful organization.” He singled out a line of dialog, “God does not want us to play football,” adding, “For anyone who knows anything about the NFL and that organization, those are heavy words, very heavy words.”
“The truth is that repetitive head trauma causes brain damage,” Smith added. And, “I watch the game and . . . if it’s not a concussive blow, you just dismiss it, but . . . the problem is the repeated subconcussive blows. When a boxer gets hit with a concussive blow, he’s not going to get hit like that for another three months . . . If you don’t get up in 10 seconds, this thing is over. A football player gets three minutes on the side . . . then he gets another 60 subconcussive blows, then goes to practice two days later. It’s like this hidden trauma.”