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.