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Brian De Palma and Al Pacino are to reunite for a biopic about Pennsylvania State University’s controversial former American football coach, Joe Paterno, who was forced to retire after a sexual abuse scandal took place on his watch.Pacino was first reported to be in talks to play Paterno in September last year.
Now Deadline reports that De Palma has agreed to take on directing duties for the drama, which is titled Happy Valley.
Paterno, who was not involved in any criminal activity, left his job in 2011, after 45 years, when his former defensive co-ordinator Jerry Sandusky was accused – and later convicted – of 45 counts of sexually abusing teenage boys over a 15-year period.
The veteran head coach, who won two national championships with the Penn State Nittany Lions and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2007, was criticised for failing to report his long-term colleague to police.
A focal point for censure was Paterno’s failure to inform police of accusations, made in 2001 by a member of staff, that Sandusky had raped a 10-year-old boy; Paterno only informed his superiors, and Sandusky was not arrested.
Sandusky went on to abuse more children, whom he preyed upon through his youth charity The Second Mile, which he ran for 35 years from the Penn State campus.
When the allegations against Sandusky emerged in 2011, the 85-year-old Paterno was fired, leading to demonstrations of support outside his house – and later riots in the streets – by his students. Paterno died a few months later as a result of complications caused by lung cancer. Sandusky, 68, was sentenced to 60 years in prison last year, meaning he will almost certainly spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Happy Valley – which is based on Joe Posnanski’s bestselling biography, Paterno – is expected to detail Paterno’s entire life rather than just its denouement. Pacino has played a football coach before, in Oliver Stone‘s Any Given Sunday.
“Happy Valley reunites the Scarface and Carlito’s Way team of De Palma and Pacino for the third time, 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,” producer Edward R Pressman told Deadline.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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