It’s been 20 months since Deadline broke the story of the Scarface duo of director Brian De Palma and Al Pacino’s re-teaming for Happy Valley. The film chronicles the fall of Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno, whose legend was undone by revelations he and others in the football program were aware that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was molesting children, and did little to stop it.
We can exclusively report that the project, based on the bestselling book Paterno by Joe Posnanski, had been quietly picked up by HBO, where Pacino has done two movies, portraying controversial figures: You Don’t Know Jack, about Jack Kevorkian, and Phil Spector. Happy Valley has been undergoing casting, with John Carroll Lynch recently tapped to play Sandusky. Other cast deals had been in different stages too, but we’ve heard that casting sessions on the project had been cancelled and other prep work put on hold, triggering speculation whether the hot-button movie, reopening one of the darkest pages in college football history, may have been scrapped.
That is not the case, a rep for HBO said. “We have not killed the project, so to say so inaccurate,” the network said in a statement to Deadline. “We have suspended pre-production for a moment to deal with budget issues, but the project is still intact at HBO with the entire creative team as before.”
According to sources, the suspension would also be used for additional script work. Wall Street producer Edward R. Pressman, who had optioned the book, is producing Happy Valley with Pacino’s manager Rick Nicita. Jon Katz is executive producing.
Paterno’s fall from grace was Shakespearean and when he died shortly after his firing — many felt it was from a broken heart as much as cancer. He was in the twilight of a career that left him the winningest coach in college football history, an iconic and beloved campus figure. Until his former defensive coordinator Sandusky was revealed to be a prolific pedophile, something that Paterno had been told about. While he informed an administrator, they did not call police, even after a graduate assistant and future assistant coach witnessed Sandusky in an encounter that looked like an act of sodomy with a child in the locker room showers.