Today at HBO’s TCA panel for its upcoming spring movie Paterno, The Patriot News reporter-turned CNN correspondent Sara Ganim was asked what it felt like writing the ultimate #MeToo story back in 2011 about the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal at Penn State, and not having the media fanfare to accompany in the way that the New York Times’ expose on Harvey Weinstein has triggered a gender equality revolution.
“I would say that the original movement that got everyone going about sexual assault was the Catholic Church which was 7-8 years before (Joe Paterno),” said Ganim who was also a consultant for the Barry Levinson-directed film, “I think a combination of things over the years have opened up the conversation, this story being one of them.”
Following Sandusky’s arrest of former defense coordinator in Nov. 2011, the Penn State Board of trustees fired Paterno as coach over what he was privy to; thus promptly decimating his legacy as NCAA football coach with a then record amount of wins. Soon after Paterno was fired, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and died six months prior to Sandusky’s conviction.
Ganim said that many in Happy Valley, PA “are still torn and debate Paterno’s legacy.”
Barry Levinson said that with his second HBO film with Al Pacino, he wanted to deal with “the complexity” of Paterno’s situation. The film isn’t intended to steer viewers toward a particular angle on the football coach, rather what did he know or didn’t know. “The questioning is part of the fabric of the piece,” said the Oscar-winning director.
Riley Keough who plays Ganim in the film said she was drawn to it because she loved “seeing a reporter who is still green” cracking a big investigative story fresh out of college (Ganim was 23 when she broke the story). “I’ve never seen that before,” said Keough. “Me neither,” added Levinson.
Pacino was grilled by the press on his process, which he was more than happy to share. He did make a point to watch the doc about Paterno Happy Valley, he works closely with his longtime make-up artist John Caglione Jr. to not “make a replica, but come close to the sense of the character”. The Oscar winner is someone who, yes, will meet with the real-life person he’s portraying (read Frank Serpico for Serpico) in preparation, but in other situations will jump off the script, which was the case here with Paterno.
“The character was close to a savant that I’ve ever played,” said Pacino, “acting is about finding out and learning as you go, and I’m still learning about this character.”