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The Jerry Sandusky sex scandal that took down Penn State’s illustrious college football program is getting the HBO movie treatment.
Al Pacino is set to star in the project, with Barry Levinson attached to direct and executive produce, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Pacino will play Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in college football history who becomes embroiled in the sexual abuse scandal surrounding his longtime assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. The scandal challenges his legacy and forces him to face questions of institutional failure on behalf of the victims.
Debora Cahn (Grey’s Anatomy, The West Wing), John C. Richards (Sahara, Nurse Betty) and David McKenna (SWAT, American History X) will pen the script. Levinson will exec produce with his producing partners at Levinson/Fontana, Tom Fontana and Jason Sosnoff, in addition to Ed Pressman, Rick Nicita and Lindsay Sloane. HBO will produce the film in association with Sony Pictures Television.
The untitled project brings Pacino back to HBO, where he has previously headlined three films for the pay cabler, including You Don’t Know Jack, which was also directed by Levinson. The actor won Emmy and Golden Globe awards for his performance as Dr. Jack Kevorkian in the 2010 film.
The Oscar winner’s other credits include the Godfather trilogy, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon and Scent of a Woman, among many others. He is repped by UTA.
Levinson most recently directed Robert De Niro in the HBO Bernie Madoff film The Wizard of Lies, which premiered last month and is generating Emmy buzz. Levinson’s other credits include Sleepers; Good Morning, Vietnam and Wag the Dog, the latter of which he is currently developing as a comedy series for HBO.
Paterno served as head coach of the Penn State football team from 1966 to 2011, when he was dismissed from the team in the fallout from the Sandusky sex scandal. Sandusky, who served as the assistant coach at Penn State from 1969 to 1999, was arrested and charged with 52 counts of sexual abuse of young boys in late 2011. The abuse allegedly took place over a 15-year period, from 1994 to 2009. In 2012, he was found guilty of 45 charges of sexual abuse and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
Paterno died in early 2012 of complications from lung cancer just two months after he was fired from his longtime coaching job.
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