We first heard that Al Pacino would be playing the late Joe Paterno in an upcoming biopic last fall, when Joe Posnanski, the author of the New York Times best-selling biography Paterno, was shopping around a package deal that included the book and Pacino attached for the lead role. Now we are learning that Posnanski found a buyer during these last few months, and it appears the project is beginning to take off.
According to Deadline, Wall Street producer Edward R. Pressman has optioned the book and is backing the project, which will see director Brian De Palma and Pacino join forces for the third time in their careers. The pair last worked together in 1993 on Carlito's Way, but more famously united for De Plama's crime tale Scarface (which is getting a remake).
The Paterno film is tentatively titled Happy Valley, and will tell the life story of legendary Penn State football coach, Joe Paterno. Pressman and Pacino's manager Rick Nicita are set to produce, while Dave McKenna (American History X, Blow) is in talks to pen the script.
Pressman spoke of the film in confirming the deal with Deadline:
“Happy Valley reunites the Scarface and Carlito’s Way team of De Palma & Pacino for the third time and I can’t think of a better duo to tell this story of a complex, intensely righteous man who was brought down by his own tragic flaw.”
The film will obviously focus plenty of attention on Paterno's fall from grace and the sexual abuse scandal at the university involving Jerry Sandusky. However, as previously reported, the film (like the book) will tell the story of the man, the coach and his rise to becoming the most successful coach in history, before 111 of his victories were vacated by the NCAA and his statue outside of Beaver Stadium was torn down following the scandal. Of course, now that the book has been optioned and will be in the hands of a different screenwriter, the story's primary focus could shift.
While we don't know exactly how the narrative will take shape, we can usually count on Pacino and De Palma to deliver an engaging drama. And considering Pacino's recently-discovered affinity for playing characters based on real-life controversial figures (Jack Kevorkian in You Don't Know Jack and Phil Spector in the upcoming eponymously-titled HBO biopic, for example); we can also assume that we'll get a well-researched and spot-on portrayal of Paterno from the Oscar-winning actor.
There is still a lot to be determined as this project continues to take shape, but we will pass along more info about Happy Valley as it comes in.