The new Will Smith drama Concussion will be screened at the AFI Fest in LA next week. In anticipation, online audiences were treated to a full-length trailer for the Dec. 25 drama about the real-life doctor who sent professional football into crisis mode with his findings about head trauma.
Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu in director Peter Landesman’s film, which is based on a 2009 GQ article about the Nigerian-born forensic neuropathologist who discovered the link between the brutal nature of football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a crippling brain disease. As the trailer shows, Omalu’s research was spurred by the 2002 suicide of former Pittsburgh Steelers star Mike Webster (played in the movie by David Morse), whose post-playing life was marked by mental illness and financial destitution.
And as the trailer indicates, Omalu’s discovery was downplayed by the NFL, and the most powerful sports league in the country sought to silence him as he fought to make his findings public. Only recently has the NFL acknowledged the game’s link to CTE; in September, a study showed that of 91 recently-deceased NFL players, 87 were found to have suffered from the disease.
In the film, Luke Wilson plays NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who is unlikely to come off as a concerned citizen. And Sony, the film’s distributor, has worried about the NFL’s reaction, though it denied reports that it had altered the film to avoid angering the league.
Smith, for his part, said he’s not concerned.
“I don’t think it’s going to generate too much controversy [with the NFL]. There will be a little difficulty in swallowing it, as it was for me. I’m a football dad, you know,” he told reporters at the Hollywood Film Awards on Sunday. “You don’t want it to be true. I think that the science is really irrefutable and the story of Dr. Bennet Omalu is such a powerful story. I think that it will be difficult at first for some, but I don’t think that it’s going to be that big of an issue. It’s something that we have to accept.”
Concussion, which co-stars Albert Brooks, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Alec Baldwin, hits theaters on Christmas Day.