Before the team's last full day of practice, the Redskins arranged for director Peter Berg to show his forthcoming movie to the team.*
Once the entire Redskins team, coaching staff and ownership had settled into their seats, situated with proper movie-going snacks, director Peter Berg stood in the center aisle of the Richmond-area theater and introduced his new film, "Deepwater Horizon," with a metaphor.
The movie, about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that took 11 lives and spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, was, like most Peter Berg movies, a story of teamwork under crisis. That, Berg said, was why he was so excited for a group of professional football players to see his latest project. This was an audience that understood best what it means to have every teammate's back.
"This is really the first group that's ever seen the film and we're trying to gauge how the movie works," Berg said before the movie. "You don't get a more honest group of guys. This environment, you get a very eclectic group of people from all over the country and they don't bulls*. You get a real good read for how the movie does."
Deep Water Horizon — Su'a Cravens (@Sua_Cravens) August 14, 2016
Berg came to Richmond for more than a screening reaction though. He and Redskins owner Dan Snyder have had a strong relationship for years, and with training camp nearly finished, a movie night, something that's become a tradition for the team in recent seasons, became a proper send-off and opportunity for one more night of team bonding.
Two years ago, Berg screened his last film, "Lone Survivor," for the team in the same theater. He remembers some players with tears at the end of his film, an indication that he had tugged the right strings.
"The movies I make are generally pretty emotional and kind of are male-centric," Berg said. "I've done movies about soldiers and cops as well. If I can get a bunch of tough guys like this to put their phones down and focus and be emotional and hit them with the film, I feel like it was worth it."
The movie primarily follows Mark Wahlberg as Mike Williams, an electronics technician, who raises concerns about the safety of the oil rig, and who is later proven right once things go devastatingly wrong and the explosions and spills begin.
"I think telling the story of everything that happened on the oil rig, it's a great education," linebacker Will Compton said. "I think there's a lot of people out there really have no idea, and I was one of them. I didn't know that was the biggest travesty in U.S. history as far as oil….I think it's a great educational film."
Berg became, as he describes, the "face of football from Hollywood," once he wrote and directed "Friday Night Lights" in 2004. He had always been a huge football fan, but making that movie "took me deeper into the culture, especially outside the NFL in the collegiate and high school levels," he said.
He's recently extended his passion for the sport as the executive producer of HBO's "Ballers," which highlights life off the field for NFL players and the pressures and vices they are often prone to succumb to.
"You've got to really think about being responsible and managing yourself," Berg said. "I thought that was a really good message to help the younger guys to think about the opportunity, and be appreciative of it, and be aware of it. It could go away."
After the screening, players and coaches waited around to speak more with Berg, taking some photos and sharing their thoughts on the movie. Kicker Dustin Hopkins, a Houston, Texas, native, remembers the economic and wildlife fallout from the disaster and how it impacted his home state.
He had never heard about the men who died because of the explosion, but felt the movie was both a meaningful tribute and a meaningful movie to watch with his teammates.
"Seeing men that had nothing to gain but sacrificed in order to help others, I think is very fitting for a football team. Just doing your job, and in doing so, you're helping everybody," Hopkins said. "I love the fact that it honored those men for the courage they had."