Rich Howells

Al Pacino will play Penn State coach Joe Paterno in upcoming HBO movie

Al Pacino will play Penn State coach Joe Paterno in upcoming HBO movie
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After suspending production back in 2014, it was reported today that an HBO movie about Joe Paterno is moving forward again with Academy Award winner Al Pacino cast as the disgraced former Penn State football coach, with Barry Levinson serving as director and executive producer.

Levinson previously directed another HBO project, “You Don’t Know Jack,” starring Pacino as physician-assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, a role which won him an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Levinson, an Academy Award winner himself for “Rain Man,” also executive produced the HBO movie “Phil Spector,” where Pacino played the titular record producer and musician convicted of second degree murder. He will add another controversial public figure to his résumé with this as-yet-untitled film.

The official logline for the movie reads:

“After becoming the winningest coach in college football history, Joe Paterno is embroiled in Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, challenging his legacy and forcing him to face questions of institutional failure on behalf of the victims.”

Originally titled “Happy Valley,” Brian De Palma was set to direct Pacino in this movie, as he did in 1983’s “Scarface,” until it was put on hold due to “budget issues,” according to Deadline. Written by Debora Cahn, John C. Richards, and David McKenna, the current project does not have a set title or release date yet but may be based on the bestselling 2012 biography “Paterno” by sports journalist Joe Posnanski, as Deadline previously reported.

The book description says:

By America’s premier sportswriter, written with full cooperation of Joe Paterno and his family, “Paterno” is the definitive account of the epic life of America’s winningest college football coach. Published to coincide with Penn State football’s first season without their legendary leader.

Joe Posnanski’s biography of the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno follows in the tradition of works by Richard Ben Cramer on Joe DiMaggio and David Maraniss on Vince Lombardi. Having gained unprecedented access to Paterno, as well as the coach’s personal notes and files, Posnanski spent the last two years of Paterno’s life covering the coach, on (and off) the field and through the scandal that ended Paterno’s legendary career.

Joe Posnanski, who in 2012 was named the Best Sportswriter in America by the National Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame, was with Paterno and his family as a horrific national scandal unfolded and Paterno was fired. Within three months, Paterno died of lung cancer, a tragic end to a life that was epic, influential, and operatic.

“Paterno” is the fullest description we will ever have of the man’s character and career. In this honest and surprising portrait, Joe Posnanski brings new insight and understanding to one of the most controversial figures in America.

Affectionately known as “JoePa,” Paterno was praised as one of the greatest college football coaches of all time, serving as head coach of the Nittany Lions from 1966 until 2011, when he was fired after assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was arrested and later convicted of multiple counts of sexual abuse of young boys. An independent investigation by former FBI director Louis Freeh commissioned by the Penn State Board of Trustees in 2012 concluded that Paterno and other Penn State officials knew about the abuse allegations as far back as 1998 but never acted on them, showing “total disregard for the safety and welfare of Sandusky’s child victims” that “empowered” Sandusky to continue his crimes, Freeh said.

Pacino, who also starred in the HBO miniseries “Angels in America,” is attached to another project with local connections – he is rumored to be playing labor union leader Jimmy Hoffa in “The Irishman,” a movie for Netflix that is based on the 2004 true crime bestseller “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt about the life of hitman Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, who allegedly killed Hoffa. Currently in pre-production, it reunites director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro. Learn more about the film here.