Al Pacino Starring as Joe Paterno & It Feels Too Soon

Al PacinoIf you're an Al Pacino fan, you'll soon be able to see him in a movie that's tentatively titled Happy Valley. It's a dramatic story based on a bestselling biography, and the movie reunites the famed Scarface team of director Brian De Palma and Pacino. Happy Valley tells the story of an iconic, beloved sports figure whose reputation unraveled in the face of molestation revelations, when it was discovered he and many others did virtually nothing to stop the abuse for fear of bad publicity. Is this all sounding familiar yet? Yep: Al Pacino's playing Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

Boy, Hollywood sure didn't waste any time on this one, did they? I guess you have to strike while the iron's hot, but does the timing of this movie seem a little … I don't know, uncomfortably soon after the scandal became public?


It's obviously a hugely dramatic story with all sorts of interesting angles for a film -- Deadline describes Paterno's fall from grace as "Shakespearean," and adds that "when he died shortly after his firing, many felt it was from a broken heart as much as cancer."

Maybe I shouldn't feel sympathy for the memory of a man who was reportedly aware that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was molesting children, and did little to stop it, but there are just so many innocent people involved: the young people Sandusky abused, Paterno's family who are surely still grieving the man who died just a year ago. It seems a little exploitive to barge ahead with a big Hollywood biopic, but I guess it'll be a while before it actually hits theaters. So maybe by then it won't feel quite so squicky?

I can't really imagine Sandusky's victims or longtime Penn State fans or Paterno's loved ones lining up to see this movie, but it does sound like an industry dream team. Not only is De Palma directing and Pacino starring, but Dave McKenna (American History X and Blow) is reportedly making a deal to write the script.

The project was recently confirmed by producer Edward Pressman, who said in a statement:

Happy Valley reunites the Scarface and Carlito’s Way team of De Palma and 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.

It's a hell of a tough topic, but Pacino definitely seems like a great choice for capturing the nuanced character and storylines involved. As for whether this is truly intended to be a powerful film about the classic tragic arc of a man's rise and downfall, or a seedy example of Hollywood trying to milk cash from a horrific child sex abuse scandal … well, who can say, really? I supposed audiences will decide at the box office, when the time comes.

What do you think -- is Happy Valley being made too soon after the Sandusky scandal?

Image via detengase/Flickr

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