A familiar filmmaking duo is gearing up for a third collaboration. and (who previously teamed up for the crime classics Scarface and Carlito's Way) are tackling one of the most horrific scandals in recent memory. De Palma has signed on to direct Happy Valley, a film which will center on the late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno. Pacino will assume the role of Paterno, who came under serious fire when it was discovered that he and several members of his staff knew about continual child molestation perpetrated by defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, and did little to stop it. Paterno died shortly after his November 2011 firing; his legacy as the winningest coach in college football forever tarnished.
Happy Valley is based on Joe Posnanski's bestselling book Paterno. The novel was optioned by producer Edward R. Pressman (Wall Street), and currently Dave McKenna (American History X) is set to pen the script. Pacino's playing JoPa has been part of the optioning package since last fall. "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," Pressman told Deadline.
This is an incredibly tricky situation for De Palma, and frankly for McKenna as well. The public is justifiably outraged by what occurred at Penn State and, though he had no direct involvement in the sexual abuse that was committed, Joe Paterno has become the subject of a great deal of criticism and even disdain for his standing idle while those atrocities continued. I have not read Posnanski's book, so I cannot speak to its tone, but the filmic adaptation can ill-afford to shine too favorable a light on Paterno's achievements. A balance must be struck between objective biopic and expressing the full severity of the criminal acts without skirting appropriate blame. This is a story that deserves to be told, and in fact it was silence and withholding that allowed these terrible events to transpire, but it is vitally important that it be told with the proper respect for the victims.
De Palma has proven time and time again that he can tell complex character stories, and Pacino's abilities more than speak for themselves. That being said, this may be the most challenging subject matter either one has faced.