Will Smith’s NFL Concussion Drama Casts Former Pro Player (Exclusive)
Matthew Willig will portray another real-life offensive lineman in the movie
Matthew Willig is returning to his roots.
The football player turned actor will be suiting up in an NFL uniform for the first time since retiring from the league in 2005. He’s joining Will Smith in Scott Free’s untitled drama about the NFL concussion scandal, The Hollywood Reporter has exclusively learned.
Willig, who played offensive tackle in the NFL for 14 seasons, will portray another real-life offensive lineman, the late Justin Strzelczyk, who died during a high-speed police chase in 2004. An autopsy revealed that the former Pittsburgh Steeler, who battled depression and mania after his 2000 retirement, had sustained irreversible brain damage during his decade in the NFL. That finding helped force the dangers of football concussions into the national spotlight.
Smith stars in the film as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the neuropathologist who discovered the trend of traumatic injury in the brains of deceased NFL players. Peter Landesman is directing and wrote the screenplay based on Jeanne Marie Laskas’ 2009 GQ article “Game Brain.” Ridley Scott, Giannina Facio, David Wolthoff, Larry Shuman and Elizabeth Cantillon are producing with Michael Schaefer and David Crockett as executive producers. Beyond the Lights’ Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Paul Reiser, Alec Baldwin and Albert Brooks also star.
Willig has built a steady resume as a character actor since his NFL career, in which he played for the New York Jets, the Atlanta Falcons, the Green Bay Packers, the St. Louis Rams, the San Francisco 49ers and the Carolina Panthers. His recent credits include "One-Eye" in We’re the Millers as well as roles in Joe Carnahan’s Stretch and Simon West’s Wild Card, a remake of the 1986 Burt Reynolds crime actioner Heat.
Willig is repped by Prestige Talent Agency.