Well, the Concussion movie is getting plenty of free publicity.
In response to a New York Times article that created the impression that Sony revised the script for the film due to concerns that it would antagonize the NFL even though Sony has no business relationship with the league, writer/director Peter Landesman accuses the New York Times of unfairly making Sony look worthless and weak.
“It does seem to me like the New York Times is working for the NFL,” Landesman tells Deadline.com. “That’s how it seems to me. It seems like a hatchet job has been done here, and came out of the NFL’s offices, that’s how it seems to me.”
Landesman’s assessment is likely wrong. Ken Belson, who wrote the first story criticizing the Hall of Fame and the NFL for trying to silence the daughter of Junior Seau at the August 8 induction ceremony, wouldn’t be trying to make the NFL look good. If anything, Belson and the Times would be trying to make the NFL look bad by painting the league as sufficiently powerful and intimidating to compel Sony to spontaneously slash portions of the Concussion script and to prompt Landesman to attempt to kiss the ring of Roger Goodell until the studio angrily told Landesman to not meet with the Commissioner.
“In the end even Sony, which unlike most other major studios in Hollywood has no significant business ties to the N.F.L., found itself softening some points it might have made against the multibillion-dollar sports enterprise that controls the nation’s most-watched game,” Belson wrote in the second paragraph of the story.
So the agenda, if there was one, was to make NFL look strong enough to bully even those companies with which it has no business relationship. Making Sony look lame was collateral damage.
The truth, as previously explained, seems to be that Sony was committed to telling the truth about a supposedly true story that makes necessarily the NFL look bad. Certain techniques that make movies more entertaining, like a real sense of physical peril for the protagonist and/or his family members, need to be used carefully — or not at all — when the goal is to tell a true story that does not make inaccurate claims.
“When you are telling a true story about something this controversial, it’s incumbent on us, it’s our responsibility to be as fair an accurate as possible,” Landesman said. “We don’t want to defame anybody, we don’t want to injure anybody. We just want to tell the truth, and that’s all we’ve done.”
The key words in that comment are “defame” and “injure.” Sony’s lawyers reviewed the script for any scenes or dialogue that would tell a story other than the truth, in a way that would unfairly characterize the actions and words of NFL officials. It wasn’t the result of Sony running scared from the NFL, or of the NFL thumping its chest. It was the result of good and prudent lawyering, the kind of lawyering that happens in the crafting of any movie based on a real people and actual events.
“This movie is about an underdog, a David and Goliath story of telling the truth, against all odds,” Landesman said. “About a thing that is such a sacred cow to America, that in its core, on this particular issue, is corrupt. Isn’t it ironic that another American institution, a newspaper, seems to be trying to damage that effort? In a way, it seems to be a strange self-fulfilling prophecy, or a weird mirror of the reality of this film.”
That comment shows that Landesman has no fear of the NFL (or, for that matter, of the New York Times). But it also suggests that Landesman doesn’t understand what the Times was actually doing — or that he does but is choosing to advance a narrative that makes himself and Sony seem like the David for which people will choose to cheer.
Or, more specifically, to surrender $10 for the purposes of sitting in a chair and staring at a screen for two hours.