Al Pacino assesses new TV film ‘Paterno’

Published March 25, 2018, 4:05 PM

by Agence-France-Presse

Los Angeles – Now 77, New Yorker Al Pacino who is born to Sicilian-American parents, can be funny, serious, witty, and sarcastic.

Al portrays Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in college football history who is embroiled in Penn State’s Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal in the HBO TV film “Paterno.”

Al Pacino (Photos courtesy of Janet R. Nepales/HFPA)
Al Pacino (Photos courtesy of Janet R. Nepales/HFPA)

The award-winning legend talked about this role, the film’s relevance to these times, the role of social media these days, and what he is proud of in his career right now.

Asked how he connected to Joe Paterno’s mindset upon accepting the role, Al explained, “It was an opportunity to play a kind of tragic character, one who has thrown at him all of these things and has to cope in this world that he is in and deal with what has happened. I thought already that was something…

“So you go through all the incarnations of the thing until finally, there were a couple of scripts, trying to find the right texture and world to go into in order to do this film. It took time. I didn’t think we were going to do it. I don’t think they thought we were going to do it…”

So what surprised him of this man whom all sports enthusiasts thought knew him, we asked.

“It’s how he flipped, how sensitive he was, and how he flipped from one thing to another. How easy it was for him to being unhappy about this and angry about it, to being remorseful and getting depressed. Then he would feel resentful about it happening and then feel contrite. He just went through these things, found himself, and so quickly…”

So how does he keep his children safe from these predators who could be anybody?

“That is sort of an innate thing with parents. You are always doing that, whether it’s with the help of the school or somebody else. Everyone who worked in my household was always screened and I am fortunate that it never happened. I have three children and it never happened under my watch with my children. It’s when it’s microcosm and it gets pointed and focused like it was at this particular school.

“When you look at the averages, it’s more than likely it’s not going to happen to your kids. But it’s the averages, you never go by that, you never know. But so far I have been lucky.

AL PLAYS the role Joe Paterno
AL PLAYS the role Joe Paterno

“Part of this film, part of the whole point of it, is it brings and heightens awareness. Once awareness is heightened, you get a third eye. You can’t help it, you develop a third eye. That’s part of this film…

“Now I really don’t know what the actual Paterno went through. I can only imagine, because as we do these things, when we play roles that really happened, there’s a sense of always feeling that it’s a bit revisionist. So we are reliving a thing, but at the same time, we weren’t there. So I think even his family had difficulty with it.”

Is he concerned about how people immediately judge others especially on social media?

“I would imagine that’s what we have always done, but social media has opened it up a little bit more,” he replied. “People judge. I had a great story and we used to do it all the time. It’s a great lesson for acting by the way, teaches you a lesson for acting. Go into a room and just say to someone, you know that person sitting there, that you are going to meet later has done this and that, served 15 months in prison for this thing, has done this or that. And you find yourself looking at the person differently. You can’t help it.

“There is something inherently off about all of that. It’s odd, the judgment is odd, that is why we have juries, there’s 12 of you. Imagine being on a jury sitting in that room talking about a particular case…”

Asked what he is proud about his career, Al disclosed, “It’s what I do. I don’t think about it as being something. I have one thing that I do get excited about, the only thing, is desire. I get excited when I have a desire to do something, which is rare, believe it or not. It’s rare, like all of us have. It’s all relevant but I am hardly ever, like I want to do this. I can’t count on a hand, the times I have done movies or plays that I felt like, I want to do this. Certainly not after 30!”