HBO has revealed its first photo of Al Pacino as Joe Paterno in an upcoming movie about the fallen Penn State football coach. Pacino, of course, made his name 45 years ago as Michael Corleone in the Best Picture Oscar-winning crime drama The Godfather, which was followed up by more classic roles in such films as The Godfather: Part II and III, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Scarface and Heat, but in more recent years, the Scent of a Woman Oscar winner has played several real-life subjects for original movies produced by HBO, including controversial euthanasia proponent Dr. Jack Kervorkian in You Don't Know Jack, and the titular role in Phil Spector – which examined the legendary record producer's trial and eventual murder conviction.
After five years in development with the actor attached, HBO finally has Pacino taking the field as Paterno, the disgraced Penn State football coach who was forced to resign from the college's football dynasty's program in 2011 and died a year later. HBO released the first photo of Pacino as Paterno on Sunday, along with a synopsis of the untitled film, which was previously reported to be Happy Valley:
“The film centers on Joe Paterno, who, after becoming the winningest coach in college football history, is embroiled in Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, challenging his legacy and forcing him to face questions of institutional failure regarding the victims.”
Like he did for You Don't Know Jack and Phil Spector, Pacino seems to have literally transformed himself into the guise of the real-life Paterno, whose looks were accented by trademark thick, black-framed glasses. In a side-by-side comparison photo by Deadline, there's no doubt a resemblance between Pacino and the late Paterno, although Pacino clearly has a thinner face than his square-jawed real-life subject. The film marks the second time Pacino has played a football coach, following his turn as the fictional gridiron genius Tony D'Amato in Oliver Stone's hard-hitting sports drama Any Given Sunday.
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Of course, fans of Pacino by this point know that achieving the look is only the first part of the amazing transformation he makes in all his roles, so it will be interesting to see what sort of complexities the venerable actor brings to Paterno. Reteaming with his You Don't Know Jack director Barry Levinson for the Paterno film, Pacino is sure to give us a riveting look into the mind of the college football legend during the biggest crisis in his career before his death at age 85 in 2012.
Not much else is known about the Paterno film at this point, other than Riley Keough will play Sara Ganim, the 23-year-old journalist who broke the Penn State scandal, and that Annie Parisse has also been cast to star as Paterno's daughter, Mary Kay. It appears that the film clearly won't concentrate on Paterno's coaching career, but more about the fallout resulting from the revelations of sexual abuse of young boys by Sandusky, his longtime defensive coordinator.
Paterno coached the Nittany Lions to 409 victories from 1966 to 2011 – 111 of which were vacated because of the scandal. Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of child molestation in June 2012.