Anyway, Pacino did the football coach thing, in Any Given Sunday, which was one of my favorites of his late performances. But I guess it’s a natural direction to go in. If you insist in going in that direction.
ICM Partners next week will be taking a package for a movie about former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, with Al Pacino attached to play the man called JoePa by most students at Happy Valley. The package will be built around Joe Posnanski’s biography Paterno, which is now atop The New York Times Bestseller List in its second week. Pacino’s manager, Rick Nicita, will produce.
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.
Posnanski, an award-winning sportswriter who has written for Sports Illustrated and The Kansas City Star, had spent a year working on the book when the scandal broke. The book — and the movie — isn’t just about Paterno’s demise but rather his life before Penn State, his family and the iron grip he held over Penn State football and politics until his downfall. This can either be a feature film or a cable movie, because Shakespeare himself would have had trouble coming up with anything this shocking, and because the issues here still boggle the mind.
The writer of this piece for Deadline.com goes on to say that he has been slammed with e-mails, both pro and con, some hoping the deal is scotched and others defending their beloved mentor, Paterno.
Will be interesting to discover who gets to direct. Please not Oliver Stone.
Eight Favorite Al Pacino Film Performances
1. Michael Corleone, Godfather I & II. One of the great performances in American film history. The one adjective used to describe the character most often in the novel is “impassive.” What the hell do you do with “impassive”? Pacino shows you.
2. Sonny Wortzik, Dog Day Afternoon. No one plays exhausted characters better than Pacino. (See Donnie Brasco and Any Given Sunday below.) On paper, Sonny appears to be little more than a sad little man who has not thought out his life very well or the consequences of his actions. Pathetic is the best descriptor. But Pacino makes him, dare I say it, sympathetic. The ending is truly stunning, and sad in a way you would not have expected, and completely owing to Pacino.
3. Lowell Bergman, The Informer. Like Dog Day, based on a true story. At a time in his career when he was getting slammed for overacting and overemoting and over everything, Pacino delivers a disciplined, solid, and serious performance that anchors that whole sordid tale of the tobacco industry vendetta against one of its own. Russell Crowe and Christopher Plummer got all the attention—well deserved, but not the whole story.
4. Tony D’Amato, Any Given Sunday. Released the same year as The Informer, Pacino’s low-rent Lombardi is a man at the ragged edge of his career and energy struggling against a brave new world of superstar sports and twenty-something owners. That Pacino failed to garner an Oscar nod for either D’Amato or Bergman is one of the great oversights in Oscar history (which is a long, sorry list—including the year Billy Bob Thornton got screwed after giving THREE great and very different performances, all in 2001: in Monster’s Ball, Bandits, and The Man Who Wasn’t There).
5. Ivan Travalian, Author! Author! Critics panned it, but I found his performance as a playwright with a passel of kids abandoned by his self-absorbed wife utterly charming and played with a deft, light touch.
6. Tony Roma, Glengarry Glen Ross. The was the role that put Joe Mantegna on the map—in New York, on Broadway, but he lost out on the film version to the bigger name. Pacino hits all the right notes in a symphony of profanity and anxiety.
7. Big Boy Caprice, Dick Tracy. Even cartoons can be too…cartoonish. Pacino is the only reason to watch this dopey, overwrought thing: “You get behind me, we all profit; you challenge me, we all go down! There was one Napoleon, one Washington, one me!”
8. Lefty Ruggiero, Donnie Brasco. Imagine Michael Corleone as a low-level bag man in Clemenza’s family who wakes up one morning to find that he is no longer a shark but bait.
1. Lt. Col. Frank Slade, Scent of a Woman. What can you say about a performance where the most memorable things the lead says is Whoo-ah! and I’m in the dark here! (Really? We would never have known.) They owed the man an Oscar, that’s all I can say.
2. Tony Montana, Scarface. I would have walked out of the theater had I not been with someone else. A total piece of crap, with a star whose accent would have been an embarrassment to Speedy Gonzalez.
If you ever get a chance to see Pacino on Broadway, do what you can to get yourself there. I’ve seen him four times, and all I can say is that he commands the stage in a way Jimmy Cagney use to command the Big Screen. You cannot take your eyes off him and his energy is such that it produces momentum that drives the entire production. I wish I had seen him in The Merchant of Venice when I had a chance back when I was still in New York. And I see he will be playing Shelly “The Machine” Levene this year in a revival of Glengarry Glen Ross, which I would love to see but will never pay $152 for an orchestra seat to do so. (Or even $72 for a seat by the concession stand.)