The as-of-yet-untitled feature will detail the story of the disgraced Penn State football coach, who went from holding the title of the winningest coach in college football history to attempting to escape being implicated in the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal, after which Paterno immediately fell ill and passed away. His record was tarnished after NCAA vacated 111 of the games he had won, all of which occurred between 1998—when he allegedly first had knowledge of Sandusky’s conduct—and the end of his coaching career in 2011, when he was forced to resign. The games were eventually restored after a settlement between the NCAA and Penn State, but the blemish on Paterno’s reputation remains.
In an official statement about the film, HBO says the project is meant to focus on Paterno’s questionable character, “challenging his legacy and forcing him to face questions of institutional failure regarding the victims.” Sandusky was convicted of 45 of the 48 counts against him, 40 of those counts being sex crimes against young boys. A number of personnel at Penn State were caught up in the cover-up of Sandusky’s behavior; most were fired and some were even indicted.
Levinson’s film will also star Riley Keough (It Comes at Night, Mad Max: Fury Road) as Pulitzer Prize-winner Sara Ganim, the reporter who broke the Sandusky story, and Annie Parisse (Vinyl, Friends from College) as Paterno’s daughter, Mary Kay. The project is currently in production and without an official release date.
See the first-look photo of Pacino as Paterno via HBO below.
Photo by Marcell Rév/HBO