What Does Painkiller Get Right About Richard Sackler?

Painkiller Richard Sackler
Matthew Broderick as Richard Sackler in Painkiller courtesy of Netflix

Matthew Broderick plays former Purdue Pharma chairman Richard Sackler in Painkiller. And according to the disclaimer at the beginning of each episode, many of the details around Sackler and other characters in the show who are based on real people have been fictionalized. That’s to protect Netflix from being sued by the Sacklers for defamation.

“We struggled a bit when it came time to add the disclaimer onto the front of the show, which is standard legal that protects us from someone feeling we defamed them. Because the truth is, you can’t know what someone was actually thinking. In many cases, conversations that took place that we weren’t privy to, we can’t know what was said,” Painkiller executive producer Eric Newman told MovieMaker.

Of course, the ghost of Sackler’s uncle Arthur (Clark Gregg) probably didn’t haunt him throughout his time as chairman of Purdue, and they probably didn’t have full-blown conversations. That’s obvious. But there are other details that the show dramatized that are more of a gray area, like conversations between Purdue executives. The show’s creators say some of those are loosely based on real email exchanges, while others are completely made up for the dramatic purposes of a television show.

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