EXCLUSIVE: While Ridley Scott is taking on the massive Moses movie Exodus with Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton, he and producing partner Giannina Facio have been meeting with A-list writers for what he hopes will be the next film he directs. Scott wants to create a drama focusing on the debilitating effects that concussions are having on our sports heroes, and the role that league owners play in allowing it to happen. His plan is to create a morality tale on that issue, much the way that Michael Mann’s The Insider took on the tobacco industry’s complicity in covering up the addictive and cancer-causing effects of cigarette smoking.
It sounds like a most worthy project to me. Scott is a big fan of sports including rugby and football, but he is going to focus on pro football. He has been moved reading all that has been written on athletes including former NFL stars Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, both of whom committed suicide after suffering chronic traumatic encephalopathy, with each making sure to leave his brain intact so it could be studied in the hope the results would help their gridiron brethren who also are suffering.
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John Mackey, arguably the greatest tight end in football history who became a brilliant president of the NFL Players Association, saw his mental faculties erode so badly because of dementia that he ended up in an assisted living facility before he died. Former Chicago Bears QB Jim McMahon suffers extreme memory loss, and that has grown more commonplace among players over the past two decades. This is not restricted to football: It happens in contact sports like soccer, rugby, hockey and boxing. Whether it’s through evolution, better nutrition or substances like steroids and Human Growth Hormone, athletes are getting larger, stronger and faster.
Football is a worthy subject for Scott’s camera. National Football League revenues have grown exorbitantly as has the value of television rights and franchises, and much has to do with showcasing the devastating collisions that take place all over the field. Players hit like freight trains, and until recently they hid injuries. The business of concussions has only recently been taken seriously because of lawsuits. Pro football is my favorite sport, and I can watch three games on a Sunday. But I must say it has become harder to enjoy, knowing that so many of the stars I grew up admiring are faring terribly in retirement after having put their bodies and brains on the line. The casualties are everywhere, and every helmet-to-helmet hit makes you cringe.
Scott likes to follow a big project with a smaller one, much the way he directed The Counselor after Prometheus. I hope he, Facio and whatever top scribe they hire find a handle on this in time for Scott to direct it after he completes Exodus. Scott’s repped by WME.