by Geoff Rushton
A teaser trailer released on Friday for HBO’s “Paterno” offers look at Al Pacino in the role of late Penn State head coach.
The film, set to be released this spring, takes place in the week’s after former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky’s arrest on child sexual abuse charges and is framed by flashbacks.
“After becoming the winningest coach in college football history, Paterno’s legacy is challenged and he is forced to face questions of institutional failure,” the movie’s logline reads.
The 48-second trailer released on Friday opens with a pensive-looking Pacino as chants of “Joe Paterno” are heard. It cuts quickly among scenes before concluding with a voice asking “Dad, did you know about Jerry?”
Pacino and director Barry Levinson said last week at the Television Critics Association winter meetings that the movie does not take a definitive position on whether Paterno did enough when he received a report about Sandusky or the extent of Paterno’s knowledge about abuse by the former assistant coach.
“I think the film has to deal with the complexity of it all, rather than say he did this or he didn’t do that. … The questioning of it is part of the fabric of the piece,” Levinson said. “It truly is a tragedy.”
Levinson added on HBO’s Medium account that the film doesn’t “follow an agenda” and leaves the viewer to decide.
“Joe Paterno was known as an honorable man, an educator, a humanitarian — so trying to make sense out of what happened is, for me, the most fascinating aspect of the story,” Levinson said. “What did he understand? What did he not understand?”
Pacino, who said Paterno “was as close to a savant as I’d ever played,” also said he felt it was a complicated situation.
“The question isn’t just what he knew, it’s what he did about it,” Pacino said, according to IndieWire. “I think he knew there were complaints. He knew there were rumors. […] I don’t think he was very fond of Sandusky, for whatever reasons — I think there were other reasons.”
But, he said, “He did act upon it. He did say he thought someone should look into this. [But] a guy like Paterno — he’s like an emperor, he’s like a king. He didn’t take up with it because it was out of his control. And I think this is a character who’s used to control.”
The film co-stars Riley Keough as Sara Ganim, the former Harrisburg Patriot-News reporter who was the first to report on a grand jury’s investigation of Sandusky. A few scene with Keough can be spotted in the trailer, as well as two scenes with Sandusky.
“Paterno” also co-stars Kathy Baker as Sue Paterno, Greg Grunberg and Larry Mitchell as sons Scott and Jay Paterno, and Annie Parisse as daughter Mary Kay Paterno-Hort.
An official release date has not yet been announced.