Gina Prince-Bythewood will direct and Gugu Mbatha-Raw will star in An Untamed State, an adaptation of Roxane Gay‘s debut novel that the director will co-write with the author for Fox Searchlight. Michael De Luca will produce through his Michael De Luca Productions banner with Prince-Bythewood.
The novel tells the powerful, unflinching story of a Haitian-American woman kidnapped for ransom in front of her husband and child. The novel explores the privilege that made her a target and the strength she must draw on to survive and reclaim her life. Prince-Bythewood is best known for directing Love and Basketball, Beyond the Lights, and The Secret Life of Bees, and with husband, Reggie Rock Bythewood, she is executive producing the 10-hour event series Shots Fired for Fox, Imagine Television and Undisputed Cinema. Mbatha-Raw most recently starred in Concussion and Belle, and she teamed with Prince-Bythewood on Beyond the Lights.
Dr. Bennet Omalu, the real-life subject of “Concussion,” praised Will Smith as he presented the actor with Variety‘s Creative Impact Award on Sunday at a brunch at the Palm Springs Film Festival.
Smith was so convincing in the role that Omalu’s 80-year-old mother was fooled into thinking it was the doctor on screen, Omalu said. “He stole my soul from me. I came away from the film thinking Will Smith was me.”
Smith visited Omalu’s home in Nigeria and several touches in the film, including a picture of his father, came from the visit. Explore the heart and soul of what drives some of the top creative minds in fashion, beauty, and style on their roads to success.
“There is a holiness to truth,” Omalu said. “In stepping up he enlightened all of us.”
While accepting his award, Smith said, “I am a football dad. So when I got that screenplay, I was concerned.” But, “Omalu just wanted to tell the truth and what we do is deliver the truth,” he went on.
Smith pointed out that he has played other real-life figures like Muhammad Ali. And while it’s great to be able to call the subject and ask questions from the set, Smith spoke of the other side of the coin: his point-of-view while Omalu watched his performance.
“You have to sit behind Dr. Omalu. For 45 minutes, nothing, then he turns around and,” Smith flashed a thumbs up to mimic the doctor’s approval.
Sony Pictures Entertainment is offering NFL players and their families free admission at Cinemark Theaters to Will Smith’s “Concussion,” which opens on Christmas Day.
The studio said it has already reached out to current and former NFL players by holding private screenings in each team’s city in advance of its opening.
“This is a movie for the players, so we wanted to give them a chance to see it before its nationwide release and free admission during its run in theaters,” producers Ridley Scott and Giannina Scott said. “The movie is so inspiring. Will Smith gives one of the best performances of his career as Dr. Bennet Omalu, a man who shined a light on the truth.”
Players will receive complimentary admission for themselves and one guest by presenting their NFLPA membership card at any Cinemark theater. Cinemark has almost 500 theaters with about 4,500 screens in the U.S.
Omalu is a forensic pathologist who fought against the NFL’s efforts to suppress his research on the brain damage suffered by professional football players. The film was directed and written by Peter Landesman, based on Jeanne Marie Laskas’ 2009 GQ article “Game Brain.”
“Concussion” also stars Alec Baldwin, Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Albert Brooks. It’s a Columbia Pictures presentation in association with LStar Capital and Village Roadshow Pictures.
The trailer for Will Smith’s new film about the discovery of the NFL’s concussion controversy has arrived merely a few weeks before the league’s fall season is set to begin.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated-affiliated site Monday Morning Quarterbackreleased the first look atConcussion Monday morning. Directed by Peter Landesman, the film will focus on Nigerian neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu(played by Smith), who discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
Dr. Omalu found the disease, also known as CTE, after working on the autopsy of former Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster. CTE is the progressive degenerative brain disease that athletes can acquire thanks to repetitive head trauma on the field.
The book and documentary, League of Denial, already told Omalu’s story and the battle he faced in bringing CTE to the NFL’s attention. But Landesman says the film will dive into more of the story, and explore the doctor’s determination in pushing the condition to the forefront of the sports world. He also noted that the project isn’t anti-NFL.
“It’s the dynamic of, ‘Respect the person or respect the truth,’” he said. “Bennett has a savant-like relationship to the dead. His obsession is to tell the story of death. As he says in the movie, I think more about the way people die and reasons they die than the way they live. He was completely focused on the science. He didn’t know football, he didn’t know who Mike Webster was; to him, Webster was just another body on a slab. He didn’t have a reverence for the game because he wasn’t brought up in this country. So in some ways, his purity and his innocence was a requirement for him to drill down into this and tell us a very uncomfortable and inconvenient truth.”
Concussion will be released in theaters on Christmas Day. Check out the trailer below: