Will Smith says it was his off-screen role as a “football dad” that had him feeling some strong emotions while exploring the lead character’s journey in the upcoming biopic thriller Concussion.
Smith, who portrays Nigerian pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu in the film, revealed how he came about reading the screenplay in a recent chat with Benicio Del Toro for Variety:
“I got that call that actors love to get. It’s late on a Friday afternoon, and I get the call that says, “Ridley Scott’s on the phone for you.” He said, “I’ve got a gift for you.” And he sent me Concussion. I read it immediately, and I remember thinking, “This ain’t no damn gift! I’m a football dad.” So for me, it was a beautiful screenplay, but it opened up a huge conflict.”
The actor/rapper/friend of Alfonso Ribeiro has noted during his press blitz for the movie that this conflict was what helped shape his desire to present this story onscreen. Here’s how Will explained his mindset for appearing in the film back at the November world premiere for Concussion in Los Angeles:
“I love football, I’m a football dad. I grew up with the Philadelphia Eagles and there is nothing better than that Sunday afternoon, so when I met Dr Bennet Omalu and I had him walk me through the science it became almost a burden. I felt like I had to deliver the information because I’m a football dad and I did not know, I did not know when I watched my son play football in high school for those four years, I did not know there was a potential long-term neurological issue. I didn’t know the potential results of repetitive head trauma and I felt as a parent I was uninformed so I wanted to create this for people to make informed decisions.”
Reviews for the film have been relatively mixed so far. A lightly positive review from The Hollywood Reporter declares that Concussion offers a “competent but not inspired” brand of filmmaking, while The Guardian pegged the film as being hamstrung by a lack of believable characterisations. The movie opens nationwide on December 25.