Al Pacino will play Joe Paterno in HBO movie about Penn State sexual abuse scandal

Al Pacino will work alongside director Barry Levinson to star as Joe Paterno in an upcoming movie for HBO centered on the long-time Penn State coach and focused on his inaction during the school’s sexual abuse scandal.

Variety reports that pre-production is underway, with the film’s official logline saying:

“After becoming the winningest coach in college football history, Joe Paterno is embroiled in Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, challenging his legacy and forcing him to face questions of institutional failure on behalf of the victims.”

Pacino’s involvement marks the third HBO biopic the actor will work on. He collaborated with Levinson on You Don’t Know Jack where he played Jack Kevorkian and Phil Spector, the eponymous movie about famous music producer Phil Spector, who was convicted of murder in the 2003 killing of actress Lana Clarkson. Levinson was an executive producer on the film.

Paterno stepped down as Penn State head coach in 2011 after a grand jury investigation discovered that he was aware of children being sexual abused by defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky in 2001, but chose to share the information with school officials, rather than law enforcement.

The investigation concluded after Paterno’s death in 2012 and found that he, along with three school officials “failed to protect against a child sexual predator harming children for over a decade.” As a result the NCAA fined Penn State $60 million, stripped the school of 40 scholarships between 2013 and 2017, as well as making Penn State vacate all 112 of its wins dating back to 1998. The federal government later assessed a record $2.4 million fine of the school for noncompliance with the Clery Act, a penalty for violations beyond the Sandusky scandal.

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There is no time frame on the movie’s projected release date at this time.