HBO to air George Clooney documentary on Richard Strauss' alleged Ohio State sexual abuse

Cole Behrens
The Columbus Dispatch

HBO is partnering with George Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures production company and Sports Illustrated Studios/101 Studios on a feature documentary about the alleged sexual abuse by former Ohio State University athletics doctor Richard Strauss, the premium-pay cable network announced Tuesday.

The documentary, produced by Clooney and his collaborator Grant Heslov of Smokehouse Pictures and David Glasser of 101 Studios, will debut on HBO and be available to stream on HBO Max, the release said.

Production has just started on the untitled film and no date was given for its expected completion or release. 

Richard Strauss abuse:Ohio State reaches two more settlements with sexual abuse survivors

“Grant and I are very proud to be working on this project with HBO,” Clooney said in a statement. “It’s a devastating story about people in power abusing and then covering up their criminal actions against students. The fact that it hasn’t been resolved as of yet is deeply disturbing.”

Former Ohio State physician Dr. Richard Strauss is accused of sexually abusing hundreds of athletes and students during his career from 1978 to 1998. He died by suicide in 2005.

Survivors of Richard Strauss' abuse to tell their stories in HBO documentary

Eva Orner, an Emmy- and Academy Award-winning actor who won an Oscar for "Taxi to the Dark Side," will tell the story through the experiences of the alleged victims of Strauss. 

Those voices will include some of the hundreds of male student athlete victims, including All-American wrestlers and football players, many of whom have not spoken out until this documentary, the release said. One voice in the documentary is UFC Heavyweight Champion and OSU alumnus Mark Coleman, who was featured in a Sports Illustrated cover story about the scandal at Ohio State.   

News:Ohio medical board won't take action in most sexual misconduct complaints it reopened

The film will also examine what the release said is the university’s failure to act and the allegations that school officials and staff knew about — and ignored — Strauss’ conduct.

“I’m honored to join this incredible creative team,” Orner said in a statement. “This film is about the largest sexual abuse scandal in the history of American higher education. It will give the courageous men who were abused a powerful and clear voice.”

Richard Strauss sexually abused at least 177 students at Ohio State University, investigation revealed

An independent investigative report released by Ohio State University in May 2019 said Strauss sexually abused at least 177 OSU students throughout his 20-year tenure as an athletics and student health doctor at the school, the Dispatch previously reported. Investigators found university officials began receiving complaints and had knowledge of Strauss’ misconduct as early as 1979, months after the doctor arrived at Ohio State in September 1978.

Strauss was employed by Ohio State from 1978 to 1998. He died by suicide in 2005.

'We want to be heard':Strauss survivors plead with OSU trustees to help them get justice

In the wake of those revelations, dozens of students sued the school and the athletic department for their handling of the case, The Dispatch previously reported. In September 2021, however, a federal judge ruled that none of the cases could proceed, due to the statute of limitations. 

In April, Ohio State University reached two more settlement agreements totaling nearly $2 million with more than 50 sexual abuse survivors in cases involving Strauss. To date, the university has settled with 289 survivors, totaling nearly $60 million.

More about the Richard Strauss case

Testimonies:Unsealed complaint against Ohio State includes from former colleagues of Richard Strauss

Timeline:Complete coverage of the cases revelations from 2018 through 2019

Cole Behrens is a reporter at The Columbus Dispatch covering public safety and breaking news. You can reach him at CBehrens@dispatch.com or find him on Twitter at @Colebehr_report