Al Pacino to Star as Joe Paterno in Film Adaptation of 'Paterno' Book
Al Pacino has signed on to star as former Penn State football coach Joe Paterno in a film adaptation of the biography "Paterno," Deadline first reported.
Currently high on The New York Times bestseller list, "Paterno" began as a simple biography of the Penn State coach, evolving into a more complex narrative as news broke of assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's child molestation accusations.
Paterno's life story went from smart six-figure acquisition to radioactive property as the author got dragged into the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal that rocked the university, making the book an unlikely bestseller when it debuted last week.
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Now, with sales slowing, the book faces an uncertain future. However, the movie version starring Al Pacino is still forging ahead.
Despite Simon & Schuster avoiding any of the normal promotional opportunities--things like TV show interviews and bookstore signings--Paterno debuted at no. 1 on The New York Times bestseller list.
Using figures supplied by Nielsen Bookscan, Publishers Weekly reported first week sales of 11,439 copies, that would put total sales around 20,000-25,000 (Neilsen tracks about three-quarters of physical book sales and does not include e-book sales in its statistics).
Reviews of the book have been tepid, with critics suggesting that by focusing on Paterno's whole life Posnanski gave short shrift to the Sandusky scandal. Sales cooled significantly in the second week, dropping more than 40 percent in Neilsen Bookscan to 6,623 copies.
Simon & Schuster still doesn't know whether it has a surprise hit on its hands, or a big-budget flop. And a still even larger question remains: Will the public still care? Even if Paterno's six-decade career was legendary, it's been eclipsed by the Sandusky child molestation scandal these last few months.
And will anyone outside of Penn State fans care? Anyone who glorifies the career of Paterno is now faced with the very serious task of reevaluating the life of a man who, at best, knowingly dismissed several egregious instances of child molestation by Sandusky on school grounds, and at worst actively worked to cover up those instances in favor of keeping his football team going strong.
In June, a jury convicted Sandusky, 64, of forty-five counts of sexually abusing young boys. Sometime later this fall, he is expected to be sentenced to life in prison as a "sexually violent predator" under Megan's law.
When editor Jonathan Karp acquired the book for a reported $750,000 in March 2011 it probably seemed like sure thing. Paterno was then 84, and perhaps the most respected football coach in America. He was entering what was likely to be the last leg of his storied 62-year career at Penn State, and Posnanski was a well-regarded sportswriter, and author of an award-winning book about the famed Negro League player Buck O'Neil.
Though the Penn State child abuse scandal is what made largely made Paterno's name recognizable in the past few months, Posananski's book was being written long before Sandusky's crimes were revealed. The book is focused largely on Paterno's rise and reign. He was a friendly and adored football coach who ran one of the most storied football programs in the country. It just so happens that as the scandal was breaking, Posananski's book was being completed and he was able to work that in, giving his book one of the most stunning falls from grace imaginable. The movie will surely incorporate all of it.
When Sandusky, Paterno's former assistant coach, was arrested on child sex charges, Posnanski was suddenly thrust into the spotlight as a proxy for Paterno, who dodged all but a few media requests.
Simon & Schuster reacted to the scandal by moving up the publication date nine months to Sept. 2012 and changing the title from the inspirational "The Grand Experiment: The Life and Meaning of Joe Paterno" to the more neutral-sounding "Paterno."
The scandal was perfect timing for Simon & Schuster. The publisher was positive it had a bestseller on its hands.
But the fast-moving Sandusky scandal overtook Simon & Schuster's plans. A steady drip of revelations over the spring and summer strongly suggested Paterno knew more about Sandusky's crimes than he had acknowledged publicly.
The NCAA banned Penn state from bowl game participation for four years, and ruled that Paterno's last official win came in 1998 - the first year, according to the grand jury report, that Penn State officials failed to stop Sandusky.
Anything associated with Paterno now seems part of the scandal, and with Paterno dying of lung cancer in January 2012, the book has become the stand-in for the coach.
The narrative arc of the movie version of "Paterno" being shopped should be obvious. A man becomes "the winningest coach in college football history" and builds a powerhouse football program that turns him into a campus god. 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 an iconic 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.
This wouldn't be the first time Pacino has played a football coach. He was the fictional Tony D'Amato in Oliver Stone's football film "Any Given Sunday."
For this "Paterno" film to come together a deal needs to be made, a script written, and a director secured, but Pacino is certainly a strong choice for the lead.
Sandusky is reportedly currently writing his side of the child molestation scandal while awaiting a potential life-sentence in jail. If published it will be Sandusky's second book. Sandusky published his unironically titled autobiography, "Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story" in 2001.