The film, directed by Barry Levinson, focuses on the sexual assault scandal that rocked the university and tarnished Paterno’s legacy.
According to Variety, the film’s synopsis states, “After becoming the winningest coach in college football history, Joe Paterno is embroiled in Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, challenging his legacy and forcing him to face questions of institutional failure on behalf of the victims.”
Pacino has been attached to a Paterno film since 2012, when the project was titled Happy Valley with Brian De Palma in line to helm. The film was ultimately put on hold until HBO revived the project with a reworked script and Pacino still in the lead, Deadline reports. Paterno died in January 2012.
The Joe Paterno film marks the third time Pacino has portrayed a headlines-making personality on the small screen for HBO: In 2010, the actor portrayed euthanasia activist Jack Kevorkian in You Don’t Know Jack (also directed by Levinson), with the role netting Pacino both an Emmy and a Golden Globe.
Three years later, David Mamet cast Pacino as famed record producer Phil Spector in the 2013 HBO film Phil Spector, a semi-fictional retelling of Spector’s relationship with defense attorney Linda Kenney Baden (played by Helen Mirren) at the time of his first murder trial for the 2003 death of Lana Clarkson.
Throughout his career, Pacino has also portrayed CBS News producer Lowell Bergman (The Insider), police corruption-fighting NYPD officer Frank Serpico (Serpico) and lawyer Roy Cohn in the HBO miniseries for Angels in America, another Golden Globe and Emmy-winning role.
Pacino is also booked to play union leader Jimmy Hoffa in the upcoming Martin Scorsese film The Irishman.