joe-paterno-sfSpanYou have to hand it to Pacino- it takes some balls to sign for a role playing a guy brought down by his complicity in a pedophilia scandal. That’s just what the 72 year old actor has done though, rejoining with Brian De Palma for Paterno, a biography of the monumentally successful college football coach who died just as his reputation was being demolished and his legacy stripped from him, following painful allegations of inaction in the face of horrible crimes within his program.

Based on Joe Posnanski’s biography, it’s not entirely clear how sweeping of a biopic this will be. Will Pacino only be playing the older version of Paterno while another actor tackles flashbacks or early parts of the film? Will it settle, Lincoln-style into the period right before the end and find ways to reflect on the past?

Undoubtedly this the kind of tragedy that borders on Shakespearean, which is up Pacino’s alley. Short of being discovered as a molester himself, no greater shadow could be cast across a man’s accomplishments than discovery of a bankruptcy of integrity of that scale. Torn down statues, death amidst the controversy with no time for emotions to cool or self-defense to be possible… powerful stuff.

De Plama hasn’t launched with a film sure to get so much attention as this in quite some time. I haven’t seen Passion –the erotic thriller De Palma put out last year with Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace– but I suspect the director still has more than enough edge to handle this story with teeth.