January 23, 2012, - 1:29 am

Too Soon?: If I Were Casting “Penn State, The Movie”

By Debbie Schlussel


Since former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno just passed away Sunday (Rest In Peace), I’m sure I’ll get some comments and e-mails from some people that it’s too soon to write this.  But it’s in the news now.  And you know they’re ultimately gonna make a TV movie about this, probably for ESPN or  even–dare I say it–Lifetime.  And if I were the casting director, I know whom I’d cast in the movie. Some people have suggested Al Pacino as Joe Paterno. But not me. If I were casting the flick, “Penn State: The Movie,” I’d pick . . . Joe Pesci!  I couldn’t help but realize how identical they look, especially when Pesci played a novel role for himself–mobster!–in “The Good Shepherd” (read my review).


Joe Paterno; Joe Pesci as (What Else?!) a Mobster in “The Good Shepherd”

It’d give Pesci a chance to play something besides a mobster, criminal, or other sort of malefactor.  Broaden his horizons.  He’s definitely got the high-pitched voice and they are dead ringers for each other.

Check out my other casting choices . . .

As Jerry Sandusky, it’s a toss up between Nick Nolte and Brian Dennehy, though I’d go with Dennehy who looks a little more like the guy, and much more so than he looks like Bobby Knight (whom he played in an ESPN TV movie).

Jerry Sandusky; Brian Dennehy

Jerry Sandusky; Nick Nolte


For Mike McQueary, I’d cast a newcomer to acting, former champion tennis player, Jim Courier (he’s not an actor, but I’ll bet he’d take the role):

Mike McQueary; Jim Courier

Whom would you cast?

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13 Responses

Your casting choices are excellent, and they not only look the parts, but Pesci and Dennehy are first-rate actors as well. Of course, any movie about Paterno touching on the Sandusky story will likely have to wait until certain legal matters are resolved, and that could take years.

Regarding Pesci, it’s unfortunate that Hollywood is very formulaic, and that leads to typecasting. Pesci obviously can play a gangster very convincingly, but he actually has a much broader acting range. One of my favorite films, My Cousin Vinny, demonstrates Pesci’s ample comedic skills, playing a lawyer who just barely passed the bar, who is defending his cousin and a friend against murder charges. The director, Jonathan Lynn does a wonderful job with a smart, briskly paced script. Incidentally, Lynn took the bold step of casting Fred Gwynne in the role of the judge, even though nobody else in Hollywood wanted to cast him because dumb Hollywood thought of Gwynne as Herman Munster. Of course, Gwynne did a wonderful job too, though Marisa Tomei took home an Oscar for her role as Pesci’s mechanically adept girlfriend.

Ralph Adamo on January 23, 2012 at 1:52 am

Klaus Kinski. I’d cast someone like him with a creepy feel as your Everyman Coach.

I once saw him play the title character in Werner Herzog’s “Aguirre: The Wrath Of God.” It was the most terrifying madman portrayal I ever saw. The ending will leave one haunted for days on end.

NormanF on January 23, 2012 at 1:55 am

    Ha-ha Norman! What an excellent choice (even though he is dead). Klaus Kinski was such a nutter. I love “Aguirre”…one of my all-time favourites! You’re so right!

    You should watch the Herzog documentary on his relationship with Klaus Kinski. It’s amazing and kooky. I just love it!

    Skunky on January 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm

paterno was a great actor too

he was convincing in his
i didn’t know a thing
i reported what i knew when i knew
i did everything i could

prestigio on January 23, 2012 at 2:52 am

Jeffrey Lones as Jerry Sandusky for reasons beyond appearance.

Blayne on January 23, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Jeffrey Jones. Superb choice.

    Occam's Tool on December 25, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Those cast sound real good so far Debbie. Question Debbie, Bill Snyder, the Kansas State Wildcats football head coach (my NCAA team BTW) what cast will you choose for Bill Snyder in a movie? And the samething can be said for former Florida State Seminoles football head coach Bobby Bowden, what cast will you choose for him DS if you were doing a film?

“A nation is defined by its borders, language & culture!”

Sean R. on January 23, 2012 at 11:15 am

joe pesceterno

KIRCHE on January 23, 2012 at 11:38 am

let mcreary play himself.

KIRCHE on January 23, 2012 at 11:41 am

LOLOLOL! I just LOVE the Jim Courier casting! That is too good and makes this tennis fan smile! Nick Nolte for sure!

(That said I have missed the WHOLE Australian Open so far. I couldn’t give two you-know-whats about the Patriots and the Super Bowl! I love my tennis and it’s hard for me to follow these days!)

Skunky on January 23, 2012 at 11:58 am

Joe Pesci starred in a terrific 1992 film called “The Public Eye” in which he played a crime-scene photographer who unwittingly got too close to the mob’s dirty business. He certainly couldn’t be called a Mafia guy in that one. Pesci would be good as Joe Paterno — and he would get to keep his first name, too.

Seek on January 23, 2012 at 1:53 pm

The idea of having a tennis player debut in a major role in a major movie is ridiculous. A good rule to remember when casting anything: A person’s hair type is the LEAST important element. Hair can be dyed or bleached any color. A man with thick hair can easily shave his head (think Jeff Bridges in the Iron Man films) and a bald man can easily don a wig (your Joe Pesci suggestion).

Height and body type are much more important, because they are much more expensive to compensate for. I’ve heard that half the budget of “The Year Of Living Dangerously” was spent on creating the extremely tricky illusion that Mel Gibson is taller than Sigourney Weaver. They had to dig all sorts of ditches for her to walk or stand in whenever she was next to him.

Irving on January 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm

Nolte. I like dennehy too much. Nolte has the underlying scumminess to pull it off.

Occam's Tool on January 24, 2012 at 1:49 am

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