'Concussion' Doctor Hopes NFL Will React to Film "In Good Faith"


Dr. Bennet Omalu, who Will Smith plays in the upcoming head-trauma film, tells THR that the league shouldn't be worried about the movie.

Bennet Omalu, the real-life doctor that Will Smith plays in the upcoming film Concussion, hopes good things come out of the movie about his discovery of football-related brain trauma and his fight to have the truth be known.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the WebMD Health Hero Awards on Thursday night, Omalu said he hopes the NFL reacts to the movie, "in good faith."

"We're all Americans. We're all one family. Families don't fight with one another," Omalu said. "In good will, in good spirit, as one family, let us continue to work together to enhance our lives as Americans, to seek the truth."

After Omalu first published his research on the condition he discovered, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), the NFL repeatedly tried to discredit his findings. And despite some people's perception after Concussion's first trailer was released that the NFL should be afraid of or worried about the film, in which the league was not involved, Omalu told THR he doesn't think the NFL should be concerned.

"Nobody should be worried," Omalu said. "This is a movie that tells a story about America. It's a movie that will make people feel good about themselves, that will make us all feel good about ourselves as one family."

The Nigeria-raised doctor is an enthusiastic supporter of the film about his story.

"It's fantastic. It's unbelievable," Omalu said of Concussion, which he said he'd already seen. "I was very humbled by the movie. I think everybody should go see it. It is a manifestation of American exceptionalism. The exceptionalism of Americans. The brilliance of Hollywood. Hollywood as a powerful instrument of change…Will Smith did a fantastic job…It's a life-changing movie."

Omalu received the scientist award at the second-annual event in New York. In his speech, the doctor alluded to struggles getting people to acknowledge his discovery.

"In recognizing me, WebMD, you have looked my way when everyone looked away," Omalu said. "You have lifted me up when everyone put me down. For this, I am profoundly grateful."

Others honored at the star-studded event, hosted by Good Morning America's Robin Roberts, include Glenn Close and Kenneth Shinozuka, who developed devices to monitor people with Alzheimer's and received the prodigy award from an impressed Seth Rogen.

Rogen had the audience roaring with laughter as he seemed truly blown away by what the 17-year-old Shinozuka had done at such a young age.

"When I was in high school, not only could I not build something, but I don't think I had access to both of my hands long enough to build something," he said to laughs, before indicating that the honoree is so young, he could be the actor's son. "If I was more confident and cooler in high school, I could literally be your father, which is horrifying but kind of cool to think," Rogen said, to roaring laughter from the crowd. "You would be of great pride to the Rogen family."

The actor and his wife co-founded Hilarity for Charity to inspire change and raise awareness of Alzheimer's disease.

After a video played about Shinozuka's work, Rogen continued to express how impressed he was and got arguably the biggest laughs of the night when he did so by poking fun at the Health Hero Awards trophies.

"I am honored. I mean, truly, it's incredible. At that age, to not only acknowledge that other people have problems but then to try to solve them, it's amazing," Rogen said. "And you deserve a better looking award than this."

Close, meanwhile, received the people's choice award for her work with the Bring Change 2 Mind foundation to fight stereotypes about mental illness. Close launched the foundation in 2010 after being inspired by family members who had been diagnosed with mental health issues, including her sister, Jessie, who has struggled with bipolar disorder and presented her actress sister with the award.

In an interview with Roberts that aired before Close accepted her award, the actress said the organization is about her family, not herself.

"It's a family situation. It's not about me. It's about what they're dealing with," she said. "It's how we are acknowledging their journey, their battle, and we are supporting it and we are loving them for their courage."

Earlier, on the red carpet, Close said people who speak out about their mental health issues, including members of the entertainment industry, can make a big difference.

"There have been people who've talked about their struggles with mental illness and I think that always has a huge effect," she said. "When you're personally and authentically linked to an issue, it's very powerful because it's a real story, and what really convinces people are the authentic stories about something like living with bipolar disorder, as Jessie does, what that means, how she's survived it. Those are the most powerful ways to change people's attitudes."