Harvey Levine/FOS

Al Pacino As Joe Paterno: What Would JoePa Have Thought?

One thing we know for sure is that the Hall of Fame football coach was no fan of the Academy Award-winning actor's biggest movie.

HBO’s shelved plans to produce a movie starring Academy Award-winning actor Al Pacino as the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno have apparently been rekindled.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Pacino will star in the movie that will focus on the Hall of Fame coach's life being sent into turmoil by the Jerry Sandusky scandal in November of 2011. Paterno was promptly fired by the university and died from lung cancer just over two months later.

Reports of an HBO movie about Paterno were first revealed in 2012, and included a name (“Happy Valley”), director (Brian De Palma) and star (Pacino). In late 2014, more reports surfaced saying the project had been put on hiatus. http://www.scout.com/college/penn-state/story/1782942-penn-state-focuses...

Now, according to The Hollywood Reporter, things are moving again, with the title to be determined, and Barry Levinson as the director and executive producer.

But Pacino remains in the starring role, The Reporter notes.

So what would Paterno have thought about Pacino playing him? Of course, we will never know that. Our guess is he wouldn’t really have cared one way or the other.

However, we do know that Paterno was no fan of the movie that propelled Pacino to superstardom — “The Godfather.” Four and a half decades later, it remains Pacino's top grossing film.

During his Penn State coaching career, Paterno would hold off-the-record sessions with reporters the nights before most games. Over beverages and snacks, the topics discussed could cover a wide range — from the next day’s opponent to other sports to politics … you name it.

And so it was at one of these sessions in the mid-to-late 1990s that the topic of movies came up. Paterno was asked to recall the last movie he had seen in a theater. 

Everyone in the room laughed when he said, “Roaring Saddles,” knowing he obviously meant the 1974 Mel Brooks classic comedy “Blazing Saddles.”

What about “The Godfather,” the story of a powerful Italian organized crime family (eventually taken over by Pacino’s character) that emerged from the streets of New York in the 1920s?

After all, Paterno was also of Italian decent. And he was born in Brooklyn in 1926.

Paterno revealed that he had gone to see “The Godfather” at a theater when it came out in 1972. But at some point during its nearly three-hour running time, he said, he walked out.

Paraphrasing his reasoning, he was unhappy with the way it portrayed Italian-Americans and the way it glorified the sorts of thugs he’d sometimes encounter on the streets of New York while growing up.

Though Pacino starred in well over 40 movies between 1972 and the time of Paterno’s death in 2012, it is doubtful the coach saw any of them. So it is fair to guess that the amount of time Paterno actually saw Pacino on screen during those 40 years can be measured in the minutes he watched “The Godfather."

The irony is that Pacino will no doubt be spending countless hours studying film of Paterno as he prepares for the upcoming role.

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