Al Pacino takes on another controversial real-life figure in Paterno
Despite its financial problems, Hollywood legend Al Pacino sticks with film project on controversial American Football coach Joe Paterno
In his latest role, Al Pacino is playing yet another controversial real-life figure, this time Joe Paterno, the revered Penn State Nittany Lions head football coach from 1966 to 2011.
The man's legend was undone when he was dismissed from the team in November 2011 as a result of the Penn State child sex abuse scandal, during which it was revealed that he (and others) in the football programme were aware that former coach Jerry Sandusky was molesting children and did little about it.
He died of lung cancer just a couple of months after, in January 2012, at the age of 85.
In the upcoming HBO movie Paterno, the story unfolds over a two-week period, as he becomes the winningest coach in National Collegiate Athletic Association Football Bowl Subdivision history and the sexual assault allegations against Sandusky become public at the same time.
It airs on HBO (StarHub TV Ch 601) on April 8 at 8am and 9pm.
Barry Levinson directs, with Riley Keough playing the journalist who broke the story and Kathy Baker as Paterno's wife.
Pacino, 77, has played many historical figures, most notably on television.
On HBO alone, he was the titular music producer in Phil Spector (2015), cutthroat attorney Roy Cohn in Angels In America (2003) and suicide doctor Dr Jack Kevorkian in You Don't Know Jack (2010).
Casually dressed in a leather jacket and sweats, the US actor shambled into the interview room at the Montage Beverly Hills hotel.
He is usually a taciturn fellow, but once in a while he taps into his raconteur side and starts telling stories, projecting his voice as though he is onstage.
Since he got the script for Paterno five years ago, the project fell apart for financial reasons and then came back together when Levinson stepped in. Pacino stuck with it and finally it got made.
He said of the subject matter: "It was disturbing, let's put it that way, more than depressing...
"It was an opportunity to play a tragic character, one who had all these things thrown at him and had to cope in this world that he was in and deal with what had happened."
The film lets the audience make its own judgment as to what Paterno knew about the sexual abuse and what he covered up.
Pacino saw it this way: "It wasn't fully recognised or understood as to the disaster of it, the fact that it was so harmful and dangerous. Even Paterno had difficulty accepting it, understanding it."
Despite his great success on the big and small screen, the Hollywood veteran returns periodically to the theatre and talks about the times he forgot his lines - like during a performance of 1988's Julius Caesar in which he played Mark Antony.
"So I was going through this play, and I went to someone and I said, 'My lord, so and so'. And as I was saying it, I knew that I was speaking words from Hamlet! And I thought, 'Well, what do I do now?'"
He continued, laughing: "Then I realised that it didn't matter, because the audience didn't understand what I was saying anyway, so it was fine."
Pacino also shrugged off any feelings of pride about his career.
"It is what I do. I don't think about it as being something. I get excited when I have a desire to do something, which is rare. I am hardly ever like, 'I want to do this'... Certainly not after 30."
Nevertheless, he feels "lucky to this day".
"Here I am able to work with great people and talk about it and get into roles that are challenging and make me think, make me work, using my brain. And I think that is huge. I feel good about my energy, I have it still. I just can't walk or get up quickly," he said with laugh.