Almost two years after HBO hit pause on its film about the Penn State football scandal starring Al Pacino, the project is moving forward with a green light and a new director. Barry Levinson is set to direct and executive produce the movie, reuniting with Pacino and HBO.
Originally, HBO Films had the Scarface duo of director Brian De Palma and Pacino who had paired up for the project, then titled Happy Valley, in 2012. The film was in pre-production in fall 2014 when it was put on hold over budget issues, with De Palma leaving soon thereafter.
The movie — now untitled — chronicles the fall of Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, whose legend was undone by revelations he and others in the football program were aware that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was molesting children, and did little to stop it.
The delay also allowed for more work on the script, which has been written by Debora Cahn, John C. Richards and David McKenna.
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.
Levinson, Tom Fontana and Jason Sosnoff executive produce via Levinson/Fontana alongside Wall Street producer Edward R. Pressman and Pacino’s manager Rick Nicita who also had been attached as executive producers to Happy Valley. Lindsay Sloane also is exec producing for HBO Films and Sony Pictures Television.
Pacino is the only actor cast in the movie at this time. (Happy Valley also had tapped John Carroll Lynch to play Sandusky. It is unclear whether he would be back.)
Paterno’s fall from grace was Shakespearean and when he died shortly after his firing — many felt it was from a broken heart as much as cancer. He was in the twilight of a career that left him the winningest coach in college football history, an iconic and beloved campus figure. Until his former defensive coordinator Sandusky was revealed to be a prolific pedophile, something that Paterno had been told about. While he informed an administrator, they did not call police, even after a graduate assistant and future assistant coach witnessed Sandusky in an encounter that looked like an act of sodomy with a child in the locker room showers.
The untitled Joe Paterno movie marks Oscar winner Pacino’s fourth longform project at HBO. He has starred in two HBO movies, portraying controversial figures: You Don’t Know Jack, about Jack Kevorkian, which also was directed by Levinson, and Phil Spector.
Pacino is repped by UTA.