FOR 'HAPPY VALLEY', THE NOW-CONTROVERSIAL STORY OF PENN STATE COACH JOE PATERNO
Well, I thought there was some reason Brian De Palma had suddenly dropped out of the Jason Statham Heat remake a few weeks ago. Looks like he was cooking up something big with two of his old friends. Deadline's Mike Fleming broke the news today that De Palma will reteam with Al Pacino for Happy Valley, "the working title of a film that will tell the story of Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno," according to Fleming. The focus of the film is being kept under wraps for now, but Fleming writes that "Paterno’s legend was undone by revelations he and others in the football program were aware that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was molesting children, and did little to stop it, supposedly fearing bad publicity for the powerhouse gridiron program they presided over."
Happy Valley is being co-produced by Edward R. Pressman, who produced De Palma's Sisters and Phantom Of The Paradise. Pacino's manager, Rick Nicita, will also produce, along with Joe Posnanski, who wrote the book Paterno, which has been optioned by Pressman. The project is backed by the Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation. Fleming adds that David McKenna, who wrote the scripts for American History X and Blow, as well as for the video game Scarface: The World Is Yours, is making a deal to write the screenplay. "Happy Valley reunites the Scarface and Carlito’s Way team of De Palma & Pacino for the third time," Pressman told Deadline, "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."
Last September, Fleming reported that Pacino was attached to play Paterno. At that time, Nicita was named as the producer, and the project was being shopped around. In that September post, Fleming wrote, "The narrative arc of the movie that will be shopped is obvious. A man becomes the winningest coach in college football history and builds a powerhouse football program that turns him into a campus deity. 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 a fabled 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. Sandusky was found guilty on 45 counts of sexual abuse against young boys and is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison."
Fleming was soon flooded with e-mails, and updated the post with this:
"UPDATE: Rarely have I gotten so many emails on a story that has struck a nerve among former students of Penn State. Some claiming to have clout in Hollywood say they will try to squash this project, and others are critical of me and defensive of the beloved Paterno, claiming he got a raw deal. I can’t imagine these apologists have kids. The idea that nobody acted seriously on information given by grad assistant and later assistant coach Mike McQueary that could have stopped a predator convicted on dozens of counts of molesting vulnerable children is unconscionable. Paterno defenders say that McQueary was vague in describing what he saw, but I fall on the side of those who feel that Paterno was so powerful at Penn State that he could have stopped this in its tracks had he chosen to follow up, or even if he had dialed three numbers: 911. McQueary certainly wasn’t vague in his testimony at Sandusky’s trial, saying he was sure he had stumbled upon Sandusky engaging in a sexual act with an underage boy. When I think of great college coaches, I wonder: what would someone like Bobby Knight have done if given the same information?
"The administration at Penn State chose to protect its cherished powerhouse and lucrative football program, and went against the contract that any institution of higher learning has, which is to protect the young and vulnerable. The idea that this just somehow happened, and nobody but Sandusky was to blame, is something I will never embrace. Had that been the case, I doubt the university would have fired Paterno and later torn down his statue, or that the NCAA would have leveled devastating sanctions against the football program at the expense of current players who had absolutely nothing to do with any of this and who didn’t deserve punishment that was delivered to send a clear message about prioritizing what is important. Regretfully, that is Paterno’s enduring legacy now. But keep the emails coming!"
In today's report, Fleming writes:
"There are so many themes to deal with here, from Paterno’s rise and his loyalty to a football program he spent his life building, to the obvious question of how a molder of young men could possibly have stood silently by when told that one of his former coaches started a charity for underprivileged kids and used it as a way to ingratiate himself into vulnerable young fatherless boys for sexual encounters? The failure of Paterno and university officials to act allowed Sandusky to continue molesting boys for years, which was borne out in court testimony leading to his conviction and incarceration. Posnanski was working on a book about Paterno and was well into it when the scandal broke. The book is as much about what made Paterno tick as anything else, and capturing complex characters is something Pacino does well. He played a conflicted pro football coach in Any Given Sunday, and Jack Kevorkian in the HBO film You Don’t Know Jack."
Pacino also plays the title role in the David Mamet-written-and-directed HBO film Phil Spector, which premieres in March.