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With De Niro's Lombardi movie, winning isn't everything, but whose thing will it be?

June 23, 2010 |  8:03 pm

The specter of Robert De Niro playing Vince Lombardi -- which he will, in a movie about the coach's pro football coaching career that's being developed by ESPN FIlms -- is already a juicy enough prospect for both "Casino" fans and football fans.

But the question of who will direct the actor -- who'll be the Lombardi, perhaps, to his Bart Starr -- is one of the more interesting ones in moviedom. That's in part because directing a legend in a film about a legend is always appealing, and also because, really, who doesn't like a good football movie? It's  un-American.

The names of several potential signal-callers have surfaced in Hollywood over the past few weeks, but one has particularly caught our eye: Jay Roach. Yes, Jay Roach, the director known mainly for comedy, he who directed "Meet the Parents" and "Meet the Fockers" (also starring De Niro, of course) and the upcoming "Dinner for Schmucks." Roach is said to be interested in taking the director's chair and has met with principals on the film about it.

Would Roach make a smart choice?  Despite the genre switch, it's not entirely crazy: Roach and DeNiro collaborated closely on the first two "Fockers" movies, in which Roach got a lot out of the actor as the perfectionist taskmaster, something that could also be applied to Lombardi as he turns around the Green Bay Packers in the 1960s (the core thrust of the film). And Roach did take on more serious material with HBO's "Recount," stepping in for Sydney Pollack when he fell ill.

Still, Roach is known for his broad but heartfelt comedy, and there aren't a lot of adjectives in that sentence that apply to the exacting coach. But then, to direct a film about Lombardi, who already looms so large in the public consciousness, is to make a movie with a very high bar, and to invite the potential for dry reverence. A little humor may be exactly what the movie needs.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Vince Lombardi receiving a letter of congratulations from President Kennedy in 1962.


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Need contact about movie production and an art related issue.

Vince Lombardi refused to sign an autograph when I was a kid. "You talkin to me?" (George Allen gladly signed that same afternoon)


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