The six-part limited Netflix series Painkiller tells of the origins of the opioid crisis through a fictionalised narrative. It stars Matthew Broderick, who plays three versions of pharmaceutical executive Richard Sackler over 30 years.
He first appears in 1987 when providing initial work for OxyContin, again in 1998 when OxyContin is being dished out across America, and years later in 2015, when Purdue Pharma and Sackler are being investigated by Edie Flowers.
Broderick recently explained how he got into his new role, telling Netflix, “I have wigs to have more and darker hair when I’m younger. Then I’m basically me for [the 1998 scenes] — with a few added lines, I should add.”
He continued, “And then the older Richard — that’s a whole, full prosthetic, which takes two hours, sometimes four hours, to put on one time… It’s kind of incredible to see yourself as you’re about to look.”
Besides the physical preparations to play Sackler, Broderick said that he read Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic by Barry Meier and a Patrick Radden Keefe New Yorker article called ‘The Family That Built an Empire of Pain’.
“There’s not a whole lot of footage of [Sackler],” the actor noted. “We try to be accurate as much as possible, but at the same time, I don’t really know what his motivations were, so look at [the portrayal] as a fictionalised version.”
One scene also sees Broderick perform a dance, so he had to spend time before the shoot learning it. “There was a choreographer to teach Clark Gregg [who plays Arthur Sackler] and myself the tango. Then some real tango dancers came, and… Clark and I realised our tango was not the real tango. We did our best.”