Once people heard Al Pacino was going to play Joe Paterno in a big-screen movie being directed by Brian De Palma, the obvious question was: Who will be cast as Jerry Sandusky?
We have no way of knowing if Sandusky will even be a character in the movie or simply shown in real TV news footage or heard but never seen.
However, here are some names we’ve considered:
1. Craig T. Nelson — As a colleague said, those reruns of “Coach” might never be the same if he plays Sandusky but I think he’s the best physical match so far. The fact he played Coach Hayden Fox on the TV sitcom from Feb. 28, 1989, to Aug. 6, 1997, means moviegoers will accept him along the sidelines. Whether they buy the rest remains to be seen.
2. Bill Murray — He is tall and graying and a good dramatic actor who, in another year, might have been nominated for his turn as FDR in “Hyde Park on Hudson.” Moviegoers and critics love when actors accept a challenge and this would be one. The only question: Would people be able to forget it’s the guy from “Ghostbusters” and “Groundhog Day” and sit back and watch the movie?
3. Nick Nolte — He was a surprise Oscar nominee for “Warrior” and, with the right hair and air, he could pull it off. His voice has more gravel than ever but most people don’t have Sandusky’s voice in their head.
4. Brian Dennehy — I think his shoulders and build are too broad but he could certainly inhabit the character. He might be a little too physically imposing, especially when standing next to Pacino.
5. Paul Sorvino — A co-worker floated his name but I think he’s the least suitable physical match but you never know. He might have to dye his hair and shed a little weight.
Jan. 22 will mark the one-year anniversary of Paterno’s death and there’s no way of knowing at this point how he will be portrayed in the movie. His most devoted supporters might be vindicated, or maybe his harshest critics will. Or perhaps the movie, based on Joe Posnanski’s book published in August 2012, will make him neither saint nor sinner.
By the way, a reader noted on a previous post that Peter Falk might have made a good Joe but, of course, the actor who played Columbo died in June 2011.
Pacino is also a solid physical match, once he puts on a pair of eyeglasses, and he is an Oscar winner for “Scent of a Woman” with seven other nominations. Not only might be lure some moviegoers but he would be a savvy salesman for the project in interviews and on red carpets.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves at this point.