HBO, Smokehouse Pictures, and Sports Illustrated Studios/101 Studios announced that production has begun on a feature documentary based on Sports Illustrated’s story of the alleged sexual abuse scandal at Ohio State University for over 30 years.
The scandal spanned three decades with almost 180 male Ohio State University students coming forward with sexual abuse allegations against the school’s athletics physician Richard Strauss. Several former athletes of the school have called out former wrestling head coach Russ Hellickson and United States representative Jim Jordon, who was an assistant coach at the time, for not taking action to stop the abuse despite knowing it was happening. A final report detailed that OSU was aware of the abuse as early as 1979. By 2020, the university had reached a settlement with the sexual abuse survivors.
George Clooney’s Smokehouse Productions company was founded in 2006. It has gone on to produce familiar films, like Ben Affleck’s Argo and Ocean’s Eight. It oddly enough takes its name from a restaurant located across from Warner Bros. Studios.
Academy Award and Emmy winner Eva Orner is expected to tell the story through the experiences of the victims. These voices include span from All-American wrestlers to football players, many of whom have not spoken out until now. Orner spoke about her joining the project and what the documentary will provide, stating that “this film is about the largest sexual abuse scandal in the history of American High Education. It will give the courageous men who were abused a powerful and clear voice.”
Among these include the voice of UFC Heavyweight Champion and OSU alum, Mark Coleman. He had first told his story to Sports Illustrated‘s Jon Wertheim – the story to start it all. The documentary film will be produced by Clooney and Grant Heslov, as representatives of Smokehouse Pictures, and David C. Glasser from 101 Studios. It will air on HBO and the company’s streaming service, HBO Max.
Clooney also spoke about his involvement in the production and what story it will present to the audience, saying:
Grant and I are very proud to be working on this project with HBO. It’s a devastating story about people in power abusing and then covering up their criminal actions against students. The fact that it hasn’t been resolved as-of-yet is deeply disturbing.
David Hutkin, CEO of 101 Studios, spoke about the importance of having victims tell their stories, stating:
This story of power, abuse and enabling has been concealed for far too long. It is because of the courage of these men who have decided to finally speak out that we can finally hold the abusers accountable. We are honored to be able to provide a platform to amplify the voices of these victims.
The documentary covers an important issue within the sporting world and beyond. Sexual abuse against anyone is awful and often goes unspoken. The men who came forward with their stories have opened the door for more boys and men to come forward without the shame and stigma. This alone makes this documentary worth watching.