Football dad Will Smith conflicted but compelled about 'Concussion'

Wed Nov 11, 2015 6:17pm EST
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Will Smith, a self-described "football dad," felt conflicted about starring in the new film "Concussion" as a doctor who discovered brain trauma was a factor in the deaths of some former National Football League (NFL) players.

Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the pathologist who, more than 10 years ago, first linked brain damage to the deaths of men who made careers playing the most popular U.S. sport. The actor said on Tuesday that before meeting Omalu, he had not known the full dangers of the head injuries football player can suffer.

"When I sat down to meet with Bennet, I was like, 'please say something to make me not take this movie, please,' and then I was just so compelled by the story and the fact that I didn't know," Smith told the audience at the film's premiere in Los Angeles.

"I had watched my son play football for four years, and I didn't know. And just as a parent, I felt like I had to be a part of this."

"Concussion," in U.S. theaters on Dec. 25, is based on Omalu's discovery and raising awareness of the degenerative brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy that can go undetected.

The film links deaths of several football players to the condition, particularly that of Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster.

"Concussion" is a hot-button issue for the NFL, which draws millions of viewers each week to its televised games. In April, the NFL settled a lawsuit brought by about 5,000 former players who accused the league of covering up the dangers of concussions.

Omalu said he believed "Hollywood would be the most powerful and most important medium to portray the truth."   Continued...

Cast member Will Smith poses during the premiere of the film "Concussion" during AFI Fest 2015 in Hollywood, California, November 10, 2015. REUTERS/Kevork Djansezian