I have mixed feelings about Paterno - HBO and Barry Levinson's recreation of the Penn State sex scandal that saw assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky (played by John Carroll Lynch) convicted on multiple counts of rape, all while legendary head coach Joe Paterno (played by Al Pacino) allegedly helped cover up his crimes, despite numerous complaints being brought to him by staff and students over the years.
First off, I grew up in Pennsylvania - a few hours' drive away from the Penn State campus. When this news broke, there was an unruly set of fans who would not only deny that any of it ever happened, but actively attack those who accused Sandusky, Paterno, or anyone else involved of any wrongdoing. To say the scandal brought out everything that's wrong with sports culture is an understatement, and revisiting that is going to be tough, as someone who saw it first hand.
Secondly, Paterno was originally supposed to be helmed by Brian De Palma - under the title Happy Valley - but the director abandoned the project after a few years of starts and stops. Levinson's a pretty solid director, and has helmed another movie about sexual abuse (Sleepers) that's quite good. It's just going to be hard to divorce myself from wanting to see what De Palma's version of this story would have looked like.
Anyway, here's the first teaser for Paterno, which gives us a pretty good idea of the grave tone this production's going to take. Check it out:
Levinson and HBO have put together an impressive working relationship, and the director has gotten a great performance out of Pacino before, in the '10 Jack Kevorkian biopic You Don’t Know Jack. His Bernie Madoff movie starring Robert De Niro, The Wizard of Lies, also debuted to major acclaim last year. So, there's a solid chance Paterno turns out pretty good (read: pretty unsettling).
Paterno debuts on HBO this Spring.