‘Concussion’ Director Defends His Film Against Claims It Softened Criticism of the NFL

Director Peter Landesman has come out in defense of his upcoming football drama, Concussion, in the wake of premature accusations that the film may have toned down a negative portrayal of the NFL at the league’s behest.

Concussion stars Will Smith as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forsenic pathologist who discovered Chronic Traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative illness caused by repeated blows to the head that has been repeatedly connected to veteran and retired football players, who eventually sued the NFL for covering up evidence that playing football can lead to long-term brain damage.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Landesman denied that the film minimizes its negative portrayal of the NFL, despite a New York Times report quoting emails between the director and Sony Pictures, warning of the potential fallout from portraying the league in a negative light, and a specific statement that the studio’s lawyers had taken “most of the bite” out of the film.

“These emails were taken out of context in a year-plus creative process that’s a constant negotiation,” Landesman told THR. “I can tell you my concern for the NFL and the studio’s concern for the NFL was less than zero.”

Landesman admitted, however, that he had cut a scene where Will Smith’s character, Bennet Omalu, speaks with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. According to Landesman, who wrote and directed the film, the scene was removed because he only had second-hand knowledge of the exchange.

Both Sony and the NFL have said they do not wish to censor the film. The league told THR that they had asked to see the film’s script, but Landesman did not comply.

As the emails between Landesman and Sony supposedly discuss, all movies about real-life cultural moments get criticized over their accuracy and fairness. It won’t be possible to know how Concussion portrays the NFL until the film comes to theaters December 25.