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Might Playing Dr. Bennet Omalu Result in Will Smith's Dance w/ Oscar?

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by Tambay A. Obenson
June 3, 2014 7:38 PM
3 Comments
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As if he doesn't already have a loaded slate of projects at various stages of development in the works, there's no rest for Will Smith, as the mega-watt actor lines up yet another feature film to add to the 20 or so that have yet to be made and released.


Smith will tackle a very topical matter - concussions in the NFL - in a yet-to-be titled thriller based on the GQ article “Game Brain,” which was written by Jeanne Marie Laskas, and follows Dr. Bennet Omalu the forensic neuropathologist who single-handedly made the first discovery of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) in a pro football player, raising public awareness for the degenerative disease. 

According to a Variety exclusive, the article tells a whistle-blower tale humanizing the price paid by professional athletes in impact sports, and the political, cultural and corporate interests that fuel the business of professional sports. 

Ridley Scott's Scott Free production shingle and Sony Pictures are backing the project, which will of course star Will Smith as Dr. Omalu, under the direction of Peter Landesman, who will also pen script. 

The project joins other upcoming films on CTE in development, including "Game Time Decision," Matthew Cherry's follow-up to his feature film debut, "The Last Fall," which attracted the acting talents of Isaiah Washington, who will star as a retired football player suffering from the effects of concussions sustained during his professional career, as he tries to reconnect with his estranged family, notably a son following in his father's footsteps, in danger of a similar kind of future.

The goal of each film is to highlight Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which is common in individuals with a history of multiple concussions and other forms of head injury; An affliction suffered by dozens of deceased former players, like Junior Seau.

Smith picks up this project on the heels of news of his exiting Julius Onah's adaptation of Marcus Sakey's novel "Brilliance," which is set up at Universal, due to scheduling issues. 

Oscar has eluded the busy actor, despite 2 nominations within a 5-year period. Playing what will likely be a meaty role in Dr Omalu, in what will also probably be a weighty, dramatic, hopefully finely-crafted Scott Free-produced project, tackling a very topical subject, just might mean a 3rd. 


Look for Smith next in Warner Bros' con-man/woman romance "Focus," opposite Margot Robbie.
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3 Comments

  • Ava | June 6, 2014 11:44 PMReply

    @Marie-I suggest you watch actual interviews with Dr. Bennet Omalu where he speaks about his ordeal in his own words. He is quite a compelling figure and even the way he speaks is dramatic and draws in the listener. You cannot get that sense from a magazine article written by a 3rd party.
    Frontline did an excellent documentary last year on concussions and CTE. I am nowhere near to being an NFL fan and I watched the entire thing and with keen interest. There was also another doctor, a woman who also said that she felt the sting of sexism when she also tried to take the issue to the NFL.
    Personally, I found the documentary completely compelling. Hopefully any fictionalized account will measure up, or be at least half as interesting.
    But Dr. Bennet is definitely NOT a boring character.

  • Marie | June 5, 2014 2:05 PMReply

    IMHO, the Isaiah Washington role sounds "meatier" and more Oscar-baity than the Will Smith role. I just perused the GQ article and it contains some drama but I doubt there's an emotionally riveting movie buried in it. The article contains a lot of the 34-year-old doctor examining brains and slides, about as visually fascinating as watching someone type on a computer. Landesman has only 3 writing credits (I'm curious how he got this gig) so we'll see if he has the chops to transform the article into a compelling film. Another issue is that American football doesn't have a huge international appeal (the doctor himself, a Nigerian, felt that it was a silly game) so it'll be interesting to see the film does overseas.

  • Donella | June 4, 2014 1:56 PMReply

    This will be a great project for Will if he accepts that Ridley controls direction, not Will Smith.

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