Just as college football season is getting into full swing, we get news from Deadline that a biopic about one of the strangest stories in college football will be coming to the big screen: a biopic of Penn State coach Joe Paterno. ICM partners is putting together a package with Al Pacino in the starring role, with a script to come based on Joe Posnanski’s bestselling biography “Paterno.”
I say strangest story because it’s been so unexpected. By “it’s” I mean the Sandusky scandal at Penn State. What? You’ve been living under the proverbial rock for the last year and don’t know about the Sandusky scandal? In brief–for decades, Paterno had been one of the most winning and most respected coaches in all of college sports, renowned for his dedication to the university, the ideal of the “student athlete,” knowledge, intellect, doing things “the right way.” Then last fall it all blew up when it was revealed that one of his former assistant coaches, Jerry Sandusky, was a serial pedophile who used his Penn State connections to prey on young boys. An investigation determined that Penn State officials and Paterno had at best turned a blind eye to signs that something suspicious was going on with Sandusky, and at worse, had covered his tracks in order to protect the school and team’s sterling reputation. Paterno was fired last fall and died of cancer a few months later.
I’ve heard Posnanski being interviewed and this is no quickie book thrown together to capitalize on the scandal. It was supposed to be a look at the coach as a legend, with full cooperation from the Paterno family. The scandal broke while he was well into it, so the whole project took an abrupt turn in the middle. Posnanski’s an excellent writer so I imagine it’s very good if you’re interested.
Pacino has already played a football coach, in Oliver Stone’s “Any Given Sunday,” a movie that I, a hardcore NFL fan, loathed. I just can’t stand Oliver Stone’s directing style. Pacino will be seen next year in “Stand Up Guys” with Christopher Walken and Alan Arkin, and also will voice the villain in “Despicable Me 2.” No word let on when the Paterno project will happen; that will be determined after financing and sales come together.