It's been awhile since Will Smith has sunk his teeth into a film role that garnered a significant amount of awards season buzz. In 2002, he shed his sitcom persona of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and proved that he coukd act with a capital "A" in Ali, which earned him nominations from the Academy Awards and Golden Globes. Five years later, he received another set of nods for his portrayal of the real-life Chris Gardner in The Pursuit of Happyness. Fast-forward to 2015, and Smith is getting recognized for another role based on a true story: Bennet Omalu in the movie Concussion. Smith has already been nominated for a Golden Globe, and an Oscar nod might be next — especially because many might already be familiar with Omalu's story. Concussion isn't based on a book, but it is inspired by a GQ article by Jeanne Marie Laskas titled "Game Brain" written in 2009.
The article was a well-written and fascinating expose that followed the details of Omalu's story and detailed a problem that has been swept under the rug for way too long. Producers David Wolthoff and Larry Shuman thought it would make for a thrilling film, and so they bought the rights to the article. In press materials for Concussion, Wolthhoff said that "at its core, Bennet’s story is the story of this genius doctor — an Erin Brockovich kind of character — who perseveres in the face of all adversity."
This theme isn't new in Hollywood. Many serious dramas pull their stories from the pages of a periodical, including the movies below:
1. Argo (2012)
The Oscar winning film directed by Ben Affleck was based on the article "How the CIA Used a Fake Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Americans From Tehran" in Wired magazine written by Joshuah Bearman.
2. The Bling Ring (2013)
The movie about a band of over-privileged Los Angeles kids robbing celebrities was based on Nancy Jo Sales's Vanity Fair article, "The Suspects Wore Louboutins".
3. Boogie Nights (1997)
Director Paul Thomas Anderson used Mike Sager's 1989 Rolling Stone article, “The Devil and John Holmes” as inspiration for the Oscar-nominated movie about the adult film industry.
4. American Gangster (2007)
Screenwriter Steve Zaillian and director Ridley Scott looked to Mark Jacobson’s New York Magazine article “The Return of Superfly,” about '70s drug lord Frank Lucas, to inform the Oscar-nominated film starring Denzel Washington.
5. Almost Famous (2000)
Cameron Crowe's Oscar-winning movie was part autobiographical and partly based on the article "The Allman Brothers Story" that he wrote for Rolling Stone in 1973.
6. Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Ang Lee's Oscar-winning film wasn't based on a news or feature article, but on a short story by Annie Proulx that was first published in 1997 in The New Yorker .
7. Spotlight (2015)
Joining Concussion in this year's awards season race is Spotlight. The film isn't based on an article, but on a series of stories in The Boston Globe that highlighted the Catholic Church's child molestation scandal.
It looks like magazine and newspaper articles are the new books when it comes to inspiring some of Hollywood's best films.
Images: Columbia Pictures; Giphy (7)