Al Pacino has had a thing for playing real life figures lately. He earned critical acclaim for playing Jack Kevorkian in HBO‘s “You Don’t Know Jack,” he returned to the network for the upcoming and still untitled Phil Spector movie directed by David Mamet, and now he’s taking on another big name, and reuniting with an old friend in the process.
Pacino is teaming up with his “Scarface” and “Carlito’s Way” director Brian De Palma for “Happy Valley.” This time the actor will be taking on the legendary and disgraced football coach Joe Paterno, and the project has got some good weight behind it. Namely, producer Edward R. Pressman (“Wall Street,” “Badlands,” “American Psycho“) who has optioned the bestselling book “Paterno” by Joe Posnanski, with Dave McKenna (“American History X,” “Blow“) to write the script.
In case you somehow have been living under a rock (or just don’t follow American news or sports), Joe Paterno was the coach of the Penn State Nittany Lions for over four decades, winning two national championships and scores of accolades from what seemed to be the best and most respected football program in the country. But everything fell apart when the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal broke wide open, an assistant coach on the team, convicted of molesting young boys. Paterno had heard that Sandusky was abusing children in the locker rooms but didn’t take appropriate action, and was essentially part of a coverup. Paterno was ultimately fired, stripped of his wins by the NCAA and a statue on campus was torn down.
It’s a massive story, and a potentially fascinating character for Pacino to play. As for De Palma, this is pretty far from his bread and butter of pulpy, B-movie style thrillers and frankly, we think a change in gears would be a good thing. No word yet on when this will shoot, but it’s one that will undoubtedly be followed quite closely. [Deadline]