Al Pacino To Play Joe Paterno In Movie On Penn State Gridiron Scandal

Joe Paterno MovieUPDATE: Rarely have I gotten so many emails on a story that has struck a nerve among former students of Penn State. Some claiming to have clout in Hollywood say they will try to squash this project, and others are critical of me and defensive of the beloved Paterno, claiming he got a raw deal. I can’t imagine these apologists have kids. The idea that nobody acted seriously on information given by grad assistant and later assistant coach Mike McQueary that could have stopped a predator convicted on dozens of counts of molesting vulnerable children is unconscionable. Paterno defenders say that McQueary was vague in describing what he saw, but I fall on the side of those who feel that Paterno was so powerful at Penn State that he could have stopped this in its tracks had he chosen to follow up, or even if he had dialed three numbers: 911. McQueary certainly wasn’t vague in his testimony at Sandusky’s trial, saying he was sure he had stumbled upon Sandusky engaging in a sexual act with an underage boy. When I think of great college coaches, I wonder: what would someone like Bobby Knight have done if given the same information?

The administration at Penn State chose to protect its cherished powerhouse and lucrative football program, and went against the contract that any institution of higher learning has, which is to protect the young and vulnerable. The idea that this just somehow happened, and nobody but Sandusky was to blame, is something I will never embrace. Had that been the case, I doubt the university would have fired Paterno and later torn down his statue, or that the NCAA would have leveled devastating sanctions against the football program at the expense of current players who had absolutely nothing to do with any of this and who didn’t deserve punishment that was delivered to send a clear message about prioritizing what is important. Regretfully, that is Paterno’s enduring legacy now. But keep the emails coming!

EARLIER EXCLUSIVE, FRIDAY 5:30 PM: ICM Partners next week will be taking a package for a movie about former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, with Al Pacino attached to play the man called JoePa by most students at Happy Valley. The package will be built around Joe Posnanski’s biography Paterno, which is now atop The New York Times Bestseller List in its second week. Pacino’s manager, Rick Nicita, will produce.

The narrative arc of the movie that will be shopped is obvious. A man becomes the winningest coach in college football history and builds a powerhouse football program that turns him into a campus deity. When his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is revealed to be a pedophile and it comes out Paterno was told and helped hide the scandal, the coach was summarily fired. He died shortly after of cancer — and many feel of a broken heart — and the school had little choice but to raze a fabled statue of Paterno just as the NCAA dropped the hammer with sanctions against the school that included removal of Paterno’s wins going back to the cover-up. Sandusky was found guilty on 45 counts of sexual abuse against young boys and is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Posnanski, an award-winning sportswriter who has written for Sports Illustrated and The Kansas City Star, had spent a year working on the book when the scandal broke. The book–and the movie–isn’t just about Paterno’s demise but rather his life before Penn State, his family and the iron grip he held over Penn State football and politics until his downfall. This can either be a feature film or a cable movie, because Shakespeare himself would have had trouble coming up with anything this shocking, and because the issues here still boggle the mind.

How could a coach whose mission was to mold college athletes into men and who was revered by his players stand idly by after learning one of his former coaches was a perv who used his charity for underprivileged kids, The Second Mile, to lure young fatherless victims for sexual trysts? An investigation indicated that Paterno used his influence to a degree that police weren’t even called after a graduate assistant (who later became an assistant coach) witnessed Sandusky engaged in what he believed to be a sexual encounter with a minor in the Penn State football facility showers but told the coach instead of calling the authorities. While Paterno told his superiors, he might not have wanted to sully his beloved football program with bad press, his inaction enabled Sandusky to operate unfettered for a decade, ruining young lives in the process.

A deal needs to be made, a script written and a director secured before this actually happens, but Pacino is a great choice. He played a memorable head football coach in the Oliver Stone-directed Any Given Sunday, and he also played Jack Kevorkian in the HBO film You Don’t Know Jack. I don’t often write about projects before they’re set up, but I doubt this one will stay on the market for long. John Burnham, Jeff Berg and Adam Schweitzer rep Pacino at ICM Partners, while the agency’s book czar Sloan Harris reps Posnanski.

Comments (136)

  • Should have been Pesci

    Comment by David — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 2:41pm PDT  
    • No. Don’t get me wrong, Pesci is a badass, but he doesn’t have the same gravitas as Pacino. Nicholson could have done it too.

      Comment by Anonymous — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 3:06pm PDT  
      • no, definitely Pesci

        Comment by Cooper — Friday January 18, 2013 @ 4:39am PST  

      Comment by Jay — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 4:32pm PDT  
      • Good grief, what a threat. I don;t understand how you Penn State alums can believe what Paterno did was alright just because he’s who he is. What should not have been allowed to stand is what Sandusky did and the fact Paterno took no action for so long is inexcusable. Even now you and those like you refuse to accept responsibility for a huge mistake. Very sad.

        Comment by bmerbob — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 5:30am PDT  
        • Maybe you all need to wait for the pending trials of the key players before you preach what happened and continue to convict Paterno…based on assumptions. What country is this? It has not been proven that Paterno knew or hid what Sandusky did.

          And the NCAA has way over stepped it authority here. No one can re-write history and punish innocent student athletes at the same time. Most people see how wrong that is.

          There’s a reason PSU alums defend Paterno. We know this is unjust to an honorable man. Why not run with THAT story line? Wouldn’t his defense be a lot more compelling of a story/movie? Worried about not being on the hater bandwagon or just PCness?

          Comment by jean — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 8:14am PDT  
          • At what point do you Paterno defenders get a grasp on reality? Never, apparently. Also, you apparently don’t grasp the absolute fact that every time you travel down this ridiculous road you make your beloved university look even worse.

            Comment by Dave — Wednesday September 12, 2012 @ 1:26pm PDT  
          • …no, most people don’t see how wrong IT is…only PSU alums and a handful of regional ‘fans’ who are functioning under some strange mass hysteria. How could so many of you with your higher educations that you tout so proudly miss this unconscionable miscarriage of justice?
            If the NCAA DIDN’T impose the sanctions it did, what kind of message would that be? These horrific crimes were aided and abetted for over a decade by Joe Paterno and the admins for the sake of it’s precious football program! If not for the sanctions then the football program it turns out IS more important than the physical and emotional well being of every boy violated by a monstrous sexual preditor!!! They knew…Joe knew. He (Sandusky)started up a non-profit for fatherless boys exclusively for the purpose of gathering vulnerable victims and they knew.
            The fact that ‘you’ (angry alum) continue to defend this man just proves that YOU believe the football program is THE most important thing at stake here, it is why you have such an impenetrable warm and fuzzy bond with Joepa in the first place.

            Comment by Cooper — Friday January 18, 2013 @ 4:35am PST  
        • grow up loser

          Comment by Anonymous — Sunday September 9, 2012 @ 5:50am PDT  
          • Between Phil Spector, Jack Kevorkian and Joe Paterno Al Pacino has become Meredith Baxter Birney for men.

            Comment by Lifeless — Sunday September 9, 2012 @ 9:19am PDT  
        • my brother’s best friend’s brother was dying of cancer. He was a big Penn State fan and in hopes of raising his spirits my brother’s friend wrote to Joe Paterno asking if he’d send an autographed photo and a few words of encouragement, he included the room number and hospital that his brother wasin. A week later when he walked into his brother’s hospital room Joe Paterno was sitting by his bed talking and joking with him. He brought several mementos with him. He stayed an hour and a half, he drove an hour to the hospital and then an hour back home, there was NO press or no coverage, just Joe Paterno being Joe Paterno…there are hundreds of stories like this…and this is my reason that Joe will ALWAYS be a hero to me…and this is why so many of us NEED to see evidence because THERE IS NONE…READ THE BOOK…he did not know and YOU have jumped to GUILTY based on NO facts

          Comment by Janet McDonald — Monday September 10, 2012 @ 6:34am PDT  
      • Hahahahahahahahahahaha, better ICM losing clients than doing the same thing Paterno ( and by proxy what the penn state allums are doing) did and burying the story. You obviously are not one of the many young kids who had their life ruined and it does not matter how many believe in this horrible truth being cursed, the reverse is actually true. This story should be shouted from the rooftops. Consider yourself accursed for being such a pedophile appeaser. Shame, shame, SHAME on you and your fucking Penn State Allums. No one should ever deserve this kind of life experience but if there ever was a group deserving of sexual abuse then consider yourself well deserving of a place on that list if only just to change your narrow minded, imbecilic point of view on covering up for pedos and their network of “friends”.

        Comment by Lee — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 8:42am PDT  
        • You are a misguided fool!

          Comment by Anonymous — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 1:19pm PDT  
      • Sorry, but the Penn St. faithful need to grasp reality and realize what really happened, and why the public’s right to know and the public’s right to chastise the University outweighs whatever anger the Alums will feel. You are GREATLY outnumbered by people who want to see Paterno’s name next to Sandusky, Al Capone, Griselda Blanco, Lucky Luciano, etc… you get the point… CRIMINALS. Nothing is more criminal than child rape. You have NO defense. This story is already worldwide public knowledge. They’ve made films about sexual scandal from the Vatican, and they will make them about the Penn St. sex scandals as well. Tough tit.

        Comment by Brian H. — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 2:38pm PDT  
      • Just a small grammar comment for the angry mysterious person at the top.

        “SO WILL YOU BE.”

        Should say:”SO WILL YOU.”

        “BE” is unnecessary

        Carry on.

        Comment by N — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 3:07pm PDT  
      • You realize that nobody takes a person writing in ALL CAPS seriously, right?

        Comment by Hnon — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 3:57pm PDT  
      • Only thing getting buried is PSU’s Football department, the Second Mile high club, and a few connected persons who have yet to be named. The only thing cursed is the reputation of an Agriculture school. All of the facts are not in yet. Ray Gricar is still missing. Tom Corbett is still being held in account. The only thing worse then child rape is covering it up.

        Comment by Jay Jay — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 9:37pm PDT  
        • How is Tom Corbett being “held in account?” Also, anyone who spouts the hyperbolic statement that covering up child rape is actually worse than raping a child is seriously misguided. CLEARLY, raping a child is FAR worse.

          Comment by Edik415 — Tuesday September 11, 2012 @ 12:07pm PDT  
      • Not to worry Penn State fans, this film takes a different perspective of Paterno. In this storyline, Joe Paterno assumes the ‘George’ role and Jerry Sandusky is ‘Lennie’.

        It will be a heartwarming tale of a leader carefully taking care of his mentally ill friend for life, and his deep affection illustrated by providing him a workspace just down the hall from his office which is paid for by the folks in…what else…Happy Valley.

        Seriously, this is a tragic story about the hubris of power in a kingdom where football is the life force. The film should be made, and for sure it should make clear ALL of the good things Paterno did in his career which will be forever tarnished by the one thing he did not do…put a stop to the horror inflicted on so many by his good friend…Jerry Sandusky.

        Comment by FTCS — Sunday September 9, 2012 @ 7:03am PDT  
    • Pesci? You’re smoking crack. He’s a neighborhood guy.


      Comment by Pesci??? You're Smoking Crack. — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 7:39pm PDT  
    • It should have Joe Pesci in real life as well. It would have been great for him to have been there and gone “Joe Pesci” on Jerry Sanduski. “Hey, knock that sh*t off you scumsicking perverted piece of…..” If only life could have imitated art in that sitation. Which leads me to believe Andy Griffith would have been a better choice (if he was still alive) to better reflect Joe Pa’s naive apathy towards the whole thing.

      Comment by Jimva — Monday September 10, 2012 @ 1:30pm PDT  


      Comment by SUSAN — Thursday October 11, 2012 @ 5:19pm PDT  
  • I have the chills just reading this. A horrible story of Shakespearian depths – Pacino can bring the cult-like star quality, the Italian-American qualities, the character acting, the Shakespearian qualities to life. Very much looking forward to this – unfortunately, as the story is beyond grotesque.

    Comment by benten32 — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 2:48pm PDT  
  • Roy Cohn, Jack Kevorkian, Phil Spector… and Joe Paterno.

    Comment by WiscoJoe — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 2:59pm PDT  
    • Another HBO flick no one watches but gets plenty of award nominations, good move Al…..get your head out of your ass.

      Comment by Alex — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 3:41pm PDT  
      • Yeah, because I am sure Pacino cares about your opinion. Why is his head in his ass? He doesn’t act for the money(he’s worth $135 M) and being nominated for 14 Golden Globes and 8 Oscars means he really has something to prove as an actor (eye roll). He would be great for the part.

        Comment by Nina — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 6:24pm PDT  
      • Right? If Pacino isn’t careful he’s toally going to get type-cast as that award-winning actor that plays a wide-variety of complicated men.

        Comment by WiscoJoe — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 12:56pm PDT  
        • …or type-cast playing creepy people in made for TV movies no body watches.

          Comment by Alex — Sunday September 9, 2012 @ 6:20am PDT  
          • it’s ridiculous to think no one is going to watch al pacino as joe paterno. of course people will watch. a ton of people are going to f-ing watch. even if it wasn’t al pacino, tons of people would still watch. you’re sorely out of touch with the american public.

            Comment by duh — Sunday September 9, 2012 @ 12:36pm PDT  
  • I have never hated an idea for a movie more in my life. a) it just happened, b) what assholes would try to profit off this?, c) who wants to see a movie about a bunch of old white guys dealing with another old white guy raping kids?????

    Comment by Football Fan — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 3:00pm PDT  
    • By your logic (other than the time lapse) Schindler’s List also never should have been made. Nor any of the 9/11 movies. Nor any movies about famous serial killers.

      Comment by Anonymous — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 3:56pm PDT  
      • By your logic there is no logic.

        Comment by Brad — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 10:32am PDT  
    • Amen.
      This is now officially the worst idea for a movie ever.
      The estimated market size – exactly Zero.

      Comment by Tentoes — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 11:49pm PDT  
      • You have to be joking; this story garnered international attention and people who had never even heard of Paterno (remember we’re talking about AMERICAN football here) took an interest in its unfolding. This will have legs, and not just in the US.

        Comment by Jace — Sunday September 9, 2012 @ 5:39pm PDT  
    • Yes, its far better to sweep this under the rug so that the franchise of Penn State’s football team can go back to making its millions a year and the fans can go back to pretend there’s no problem with corruption.

      Comment by akaison — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 3:34pm PDT  
  • John Turturro would be perfect he looks just like Paterno and he’s a great actor. Pacino is a much bigger star but he’s wrong for this part.

    Comment by Anonymous — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 3:10pm PDT  
    • Have to agree. Al is my all time fav, but not for JoePa.
      Google Paterno and look at the IMAGES tab.
      Tell me Joe Pesci isn’t the perfect fit.
      See for yourself.
      Tell me I’m wrong…

      Comment by ed — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 6:09pm PDT  
  • Sandusky will be a horrifying role to portray that I wouldn’t wish on anyone… but for some reason Ed O’Neill came to mind. He would probably scare the sh*t out of us in that part.

    Comment by mruss1234 — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 3:26pm PDT  
  • I honestly believe the best movie would portray Joe Poz’s trials in writing the book.

    An esteemed sportswriter who’d been whose idealism had long since vanished, Joe left his family to move to State College for a year and write about one of his few remaining heroes — the book proposal was a lionization of Paterno and the two had developed a close bond.

    Having to watch his hero’s truest self be unveiled, watching him die and being expected to write the final nail in the coffin of this man he long admired after putting away all other illusions… That’s a tortured study we’ll know about beyond the whispers of Paterno’s late life power plays and subsequent Sandusky revelations.

    Comment by Joe Gillis — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 3:27pm PDT  
    • …this little observation just goes to show you that this book/movie while maybe revealing SOME responsibility on Joe’s part will still be biased and softened. It’s laughable how many people in this thread keep saying “read the book” as if it’s the end all be all…

      Comment by Cooper — Friday January 18, 2013 @ 5:08am PST  
  • Still looking for that proof of a coverup. If you actually bother to read the book you will see there was no actual coverup. Wait for the upcoming trials (if they make it that far). What happens when Curley and Schultz are found not to have perjured themselves and therefore collapsing the whole cover-up bs.

    Comment by Hello — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 3:34pm PDT  
    • THANK YOU…my thoughts exactly.

      Why the rush to judgement before thr trials are over? Isn’t the acyual truth what’s important?? Or is hating just too overwhelming?

      Comment by jean — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 9:13am PDT  
    • Agreed, Hello. The Grand Jury found no conspiracy or cover up, and they saw and heard all the relevant witnesses testify under cross examination in person. Nor did they indict Joe Pa. Freeh did not find any facts that weren’t before the Grand Jury or available to the Attorney General. He just passed his own judgment as judge, jury and hangman. Easy, since Paterno was dead and not around to defend himself. Sandusky is a sick S.O.B, he’s been convicted by a jury of his peers, so he did it. But why didnt McQueary call 911? Was he not a grown man? And what about the ’98 investigation? All the relevant authorities had Sandusky dead to rights. They had him on the phone saying he wished he were dead, yet they concluded the investigation by saying there was no criminal wrongdoing! What kind of half ass investigation was that? Where’s the accountability for all the authorities who let this psychopath off the hook in ’98?

      I’m not buying the notion that Paterno was this all powerful mastermind who controlled everyone from an assistant coach to the campus police, to the DA’s office and all the way up to the attorney general and the governor. He stayed on too long and he lost touch with what was going on with the program. But he didn’t have the D.A. killed, like some of the warped haters are ridiculously speculating. And I don’t believe he knowingly covered up a pedophile. The Grand Jury obviously reached the same conclusion. The haters are holding him to an all-knowing, hindsight driven standard which they know themselves they would never live up to. I agree the Penn State leadership let us all down by not following up on the McQueary incident, but don’t blame the football coach for not undertaking a CSI- University Park on a former assistant coach who was not on his watch, or for not blowing the whistle himself to the same authorities who concluded after investigation 2 years earlier on the same sort of allegations that Sandusky did no wrongdoing. It was the administration’s problem, not Joe’s. Until it is proven at law that Joe told the administration to cover it up, I’m not buying it.

      Comment by John — Monday September 10, 2012 @ 8:06pm PDT  
      • I agree with you John. It amazes me how judgmental people are to place all the blame on Joe. I’m sure there’s plenty to go around and it’s always easy to pick on a dead man that can’t defend himself. Joe wasn’t the only who knew at that school and it’s my understanding that he did report it to who he thought were the appropriate people. I don’t even care about football but I’ve had a stomach full of listening to all these people blame Joe like he was the only one who knew. He wasn’t. Let him rest in peace! And the stupidity of leveling sanctions on kids that had nothing to do with this, what did that gain?

        Comment by Margaret D. — Thursday September 13, 2012 @ 1:17pm PDT  
  • Pacino is perfect for JoePa. I can see this. The Italian-American heritage, the look in the eyes. Put some thick glasses on Al, let him gain a few pounds and he’ll probably be a dead ringer for Paterno.

    Other casting suggestions: For the graduate assistant who blew the whistle – Channing Tatum.

    And to play Jerry Sandusky: Jay Leno.

    Comment by TR — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 3:37pm PDT  
  • Thank you, Anonymous! If anybody else is saying the same things, I haven’t heard them and that’s another damn shame.

    Comment by Outraged — Friday September 7, 2012 @ 3:43pm PDT  
    • They deleted my original post because it said Penn State deserved to be banned from playing NCAA football for 13 years the same amount of time they covered up this scandal because they were afraid of losing money.

      Paterno knew if the news of him having a pedophile on his staff were to become public it would be very bad this was in 1998 and 19998 when Sandusky was Joe’s defensive coordinator. So they let Jerry continue to work there and to have access to the football facility and he kept using that to impress the boys he wanted to molest.

      The NCAA should never have allowed Penn State to play this season it’s a disgrace that they are playing and people in Happy Valley are making money from the team. Screw the football crazy mentality there. The whole economy around the school depends on the football season in the autumn with hotels and restaurants doing a lot of business. That’s too bad. PSU should be banned from football for 13 years.

      Comment by Anonymous — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 9:41am PDT  
      • Anonymous,

        You have no clue what Penn State is about. The idea that there is a “football crazy” mentality there is dead wrong. If you want football crazy, try any of the schools in the SEC or the southwest. As for Penn State, how about an exemplary graduation rate for its football players? And this summer there were almost 20 Penn Staters in the Olympics, many of the medalling. Last I checked, football wasn’t an Olympic sport. And what about the fact that the overwhelming majority of Penn State’s national championships are in sports totally unrelated to football? Finally, there is Dance Marathon, the largest, totally student-run philanthropy in the world, which for something like 40 years has raised upwards of $8 million annually for pediatric cancer research.

        The “football first mentality” is a myth perpetuated by you and the hypocritical NCAA to try and justify the bogus sanctions imposed on Penn State based on sketchy evidence and the half baked conclusions of one man totally divorced from legal due process.

        Comment by John — Monday September 10, 2012 @ 8:33pm PDT  
    • Outraged. Most are lemmings in this world. Especially in Hollywood. But they are thinking just like you and me. Just don’t have what it takes to say it. That’s okay. I just did.

      Comment by Anonymous — Saturday September 8, 2012 @ 7:35pm PDT  
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