Too often people assume that addicts are toothless monsters with no regard for life. This mindset is very dangerous and couldn’t be further from the truth. Users love, care, dream and work hard. They have families and are sick. Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”), director and executive producer of the Netflix limited series Painkiller, describes how easy it is for anyone to become addicted to dangerous opioids and why we should show them mercy.
For Berg, he came to the project from a personal entry point. “I’ve seen firsthand the devastating impact these drugs can have on people’s lives and their families,” he said on Salon Talks. “It’s something I’m passionate about.”
Starring Matthew Broderick, Taylor Kitsch and Uzo Aduba, Painkiller follows characters who carefully explain all levels of addiction – from the money-hungry drug company that cares more about wealth than the well-being of the people who use its drugs, to ” Painkiller,” starring Matthew Broderick, Taylor Kitsch, and Uzo Aduba, the sales reps who would do anything to get a fat commission check, the doctors who want to make money, and the people, many of whom were in real pain but through tricks in the addiction has come.
Watch Peter Berg’s Salon Talks episode here Or, read a question-and-answer session of our conversation below to learn more about the real-life, addiction-affected families he has engaged with and why, as a filmmaker, he chose not to use generic disclaimers over fictionalized ones Using events to tell this important story.
The following interview has been edited slightly for clarity and length.
You’re dealing with rich content surrounding a conversation that I feel is still not really addressed enough. When did you get involved with Painkiller?
The beginning was when I had friends who died from addiction, from opioids, from alcohol, from cocaine. I have seen firsthand the devastating impact these drugs can have on people’s lives and their families. It’s something I’m passionate about. Some of my musical heroes like Prince, Tom Petty and Chris Cornell have all died from opioids.
When the show was presented to me, I knew I would be hooked. I felt like I had a passion and a connection to the material. If you’re preparing to direct something, look for it. That was there for me.
Painkiller is a dramatized look at the early days of the Founding of OxyContin and the evil it has brought to this world. As a director, what did you most want to learn from that particular time?
“When the show was presented to me, I knew I was going to be hooked.”
It’s not hard to understand that when someone becomes addicted to a drug, it’s awful. Yes to that. I got that. I don’t think people understand how greedy people can be and how manipulative companies can be. People we should trust, like doctors and pharmacists, how much greedy evil can lurk in the souls of such people.
It shocked me the more I learned about how this company, Purdue Pharma, could basically take heroin, put it in a little pill and get FDA approval to ship it to hundreds of thousands of people. How much money they made and how little they cared about the trail of destruction they left in their wake. I understand money and capitalism. It’s okay if you go out and make a lot of money. power you What this company did was like Pablo Escobar, Tony Montana at a whole turbo level. These guys got away with it, and that was shocking to me.
Certain parts of the show resemble a horror movie. If people don’t change or question our government and these big institutions that market them as people protecting us, I don’t really know what can. They have a beautiful cast of characters who all do a great job. Could you please shed some light on a few of the different cast members?
Matthew Broderick plays Richard Sackler, architect of OxyContin. He was the genius behind it. He figured out how to make it, how to market it, how to sell it, and how to get it approved. He was very, very good at making money. On that note, OK, I take my hat off to you. You have an A+. If the goal is to make as much money as possible, this man got an A+. If you put any human value on it, he was the devil.
“It can be beat. We met people who went through hell and came out the other side.”
Matthew Broderick who was Ferris Bueller. . . I think Matthew did a great job of putting himself in the shoes of a guy like that and showing how a guy like that literally wakes up in his body every day and looks at himself in the mirror. For me, Broderick was a hit in that regard. Taylor Kitsch, who I’ve worked with before and has a real connection, has led family members to battle OxyContin addiction. Uzo [Aduba] you know from Orange Is the New Black, who plays our leader, guides us through it and finds out, “Wait a minute. how did we get here How did that happen?” As you say, “How did the government approve that? How did the government allow 17-year-old kids to be given heroin pills for knee injuries?” Like, “What?” Uzo did a great job.
West Duchovny and Dee Dee Shihabi play these, they call them OxyContin Kittens. They used to hire pretty girls who had just graduated from college to travel around the country approaching doctors [prescribing the drug]. You did a great job. I wish they could all be here and speak for themselves but this is not the time we are in right now but I am so proud of the whole cast.
One of the things your series really shows is how easy it is to get hooked. It has the potential to change the discussion of addiction because as you said, as a 17-year-old kid you can just walk into the hospital with a knee injury and be easily overwhelmed.
Absolutely. If you’re looking for the crime, the legal crime and the moral crime, it’s like I take ten people and give them all a little bit of heroin and one or two of them keep getting more and more. This company did that. They took heroin and threw it away. Who wants some heroin? I got it. Here it is. Approved by the doctor. FDA approved. Try it. It feels good. For many people it felt good, but for many it no longer felt good and it started to destroy lives.
The show is a history lesson. One of the most brilliant things I think you guys have done for society in general is the parallel between the crack epidemic and what is happening with the opioid crisis. I’m from East Baltimore and grew up in the ’90s at the height of the crack era, so I know what it was like. To see what role capitalism has played and what the same is like These black and urban communities have been going through this particular time is the The same is happening right now. I wanted to ask you: what do you think our country should have learned from the crack epidemic and applied to this opioid crisis?
A good question. I think we’d have to think about that if we hadn’t learned from crack that it’s primarily a human addiction issue. Addiction is a psychological and medical problem. We must look out for it. That means we have to take care of each other, of our children, of our friends. Addiction is something we cannot expect the government to save us from addiction. Part of that responsibility should lie with us.
“If the goal is to make as much money as possible, this man got an A+. If you put any human value on it, he was the devil.”
I think it’s important how we choose to deal with addiction. I think we should have learned more about what crack has done to so many lives, how much trouble it has caused and how many people are in prison for being involved in the crack business. It was just as boring and destructive as crack, but they could pocket 15, 20 billion, buy a lot of politicians, and force the FDA. We need to wake up and think about who is making money off the pills, supplements and all the other toxins we are pumping into our bodies. That’s up to us because there will always be bad actors out there.
We have to be careful what we put into our bodies, what we let our children put into their bodies. We must be in search of addiction. If you’re a parent, you need to check in with your people every day.
Each episode begins with people directly affected by the drug. I think this article makes it understandable for a lot of people who don’t really get it. Even though part of the series is fictionalized, I think these real-life encounters will help many people understand the problem we’re facing. Could you say something about the decision to include these people?
I didn’t like the idea of just using the general disclaimer that reads: “What you are about to see is based on fact. However, some of the characters have been changed.” You’ve seen that a million times, right?
“It’s true that some of the characters have been altered, but 98% of them are real.”
It’s true that some of the characters have been altered, but 98% of them are real. The death and the pain are real. I was thinking of having parents, if we could get them, who would read the disclaimer and say, “Some of this is fictional.” Then put that down and say, “I’ll tell you what’s true. Here is my son. He was 19. He became addicted to OxyContin. He’s dead. Here’s my daughter, she’s 22.” I thought that might set the tone.
What I wasn’t prepared for was that we were only spreading the word in the LA area that we were only looking for parents who were willing. Within 16 hours we had 80 families, 80 who said yes. That would be really central and west of LA, just a small part of LA. It was overwhelming to see that it is right there. I’m sure you know someone. If you don’t know someone, you know someone who does know someone who has been hit hard.
Since my father is struggling with this right now, it hit me in a different way.
I wish him the best of luck. It’s beatable. It’s beatable. We met people who went through hell and came out the other side. Taylor Kitsch, who plays a character in this series, is very open about how one of his family members was brutally addicted to OxyContin, took it to the gates of Hell, and was able to break free. She was with us on set every day. All the best for your father’s recovery.
Thank you very much. When you tell hard truths like that, do you ever worry about the backlash from some of these big companies trying to prosecute and sue you and things like that?
I’m right here These are just lawyers. I got a lawyer. I’ll get a lawyer. You got a lawyer, I’ll get a lawyer. You know what I mean?
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