Backstage OL talks with the director of new Netflix movie 'PainKiller'

Peter Berg has carved a successful career in the entertainment world through projects like Friday Night Lights, Lone Survivor, Patriots Day, and Deepwater Horizon, however, his new Netflix series may be his most emotionally compelling.

Painkiller details the development of OxyContin by Purdue Pharma and the opioid epidemic that followed resulting in tragedy for thousands of families in America. The drama series dives into the storylines of the perpetrators, doctors, sales reps, criminal investigators, and families that were all affected.

Here's the transcript of the conversation with Peter Berg, the director and executive producer of the mini-series Painkiller, now available on Netflix.

Jonathan Stenvall: Peter, it’s great to see you again my friend. I can not get Painkiller out of my mind. I was completely blown away. I didn’t realize how big of a conspiracy the whole OxyContin epidemic was. So what surprised you most as you started to dive into this story?

Peter Berg: It is great to see you too Jon. Yeah. I mean, Painkiller was important for me. I know people who’ve died from addiction, from opioids, from alcohol, from cocaine. I know people on a personal level that have died. Some of my heroes, like Chris Cornell, Tom Petty Prince, who was a huge hero of mine, you know, succumbed to opioid addiction.

It was definitely something that I was interested in. The the level of manipulation that the Sackler family were able to to achieve to get what is essentially heroin into the hands of many and ruin so many lives. I didn’t fully understand the scope of that company, and I didn’t realize just how manipulative and greedy they were.

Jonathan Stenvall: It was also surprising to me that people could be so blinded by money that you’re putting heroin in a little shiny pill into the hands of people who just can’t handle it. And they don’t care about anything other than making a lot of money. That was surprising to me. Has the Sackler family hasn’t said anything about this series coming out at all?

Peter Berg: They are very private. I mean, you know, at this at this point, there have been many films. There was just a really good show called Dopesick that came out with Michael Keaton. There have been books like Barry Myer’s Painkiller, documentaries like The Pharmacists. There’s been a lot of content around the Sackler family, so I’m sure they know about it.

They’re feeling it. They’re feeling it in their wallets because the payoffs keep going up and they’re feeling it in the destruction of their legacy. Their names are coming off the museum walls, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre in Paris, the Guggenheim off of medical school. These were the pride and joy of this family because they wanted to take our eyes off of the death and dazzle us with shiny objects, museums and college buildings.

Jonathan Stenvall: So how can we as a society prevent this from happening again? Cause I personally feel that for myself, I’ve lost trust in the medical institutions that we have now and I know a lot of other people have felt this way. How do we, one, rebuild that trust and then two, prevent this from ever happening again?

Peter Berg: Well, you know, I think personal responsibility is a big thing. If you’re a parent, you got to you got to pay extra attention to your child because the system just is not going to be able to do it. You got to look at your friends. If you’re a son, you’ve got to look at your parents.

We all have to be mindful of the fact that these drugs are out there. They’re not going anywhere. If you’ve got a friend who thinks it’s cool to do a little cocaine at a party every once in a while, you better check in and be like, "Dude, there could be fentanyl in that. Or is it even worth it?"

If you’ve got a friend that’s still a little glassy eyed and he had a shoulder surgery years ago, it might be worth checking in and being like, "Are you okay because you can’t get rid of it." Have a conversation with your doctor the next time you get medication. Like, "What is it? What does it do? And who’s making money off of it every time you swallow that pill?"

Because there are people out there who are going to continue to be bad actors who aren’t going to care fundamentally about you, your child, your parents, and whoever is in your circle.

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