Viewers watching HBO’s Paterno, which debuts Saturday night, may notice a surprising name pop up in the credits. Anthony Scaramucci, the infamous former White House communications director for Donald Trump, is credited as a co-executive producer for the biopic featuring Al Pacino as the legendary Penn State football coach.
As Scaramucci explained to the New York Times‘ Michael M. Grynbaum, he didn’t have any sort of creative role with the film. “I just gave them the dough,” he said. Scaramucci lasted just 11 days with the Trump administration before being fired following a tirade to the New Yorker.
What exactly a producer does for a Hollywood film can be one of the largest mysteries in moviemaking. Some can take a strong creative role, choosing the director, influencing the script and taking charge on a set. Sometimes, a credit is given for the work that may have been done earlier in a project’s production. Or, as with Scaramucci, someone can be credited as a producer simply for helping to finance a film.
— Anthony Scaramucci (@Scaramucci) April 4, 2018
Current U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also has several credits on Hollywood productions, including Mad Max: Fury Road, Lights Out, The Accountant, The LEGO Batman Movie and Wonder Woman, among many other films.
But Scaramucci didn’t simply write a check for the production. Along with producer Edward R. Pressman, he purchased the rights to the book that the HBO film is based on, which was Joe Posnanski’s 2012 biography. (Maybe a documentary or feature film can someday be made about how Posnanski’s book began as a celebration of the coach’s legacy, only to be hijacked by the child sex abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky.)
In his review of Paterno for Awful Announcing, Ben Koo praised the film’s accuracy in attempting to present all of the complexities of the Sandusky scandal, rather than trying to make a definitive statement on the story.
Paterno isn’t Scaramucci’s first foray into film producing. According to the NYT, he also has credits on two other movies: Big Words, a 2013 film about a failed group of rappers who get back together on the eve of Barack Obama’s election in 2008, and The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, which follows two young black men who have to take care of themselves over a summer after their mother is arrested. (The cast includes Jennifer Hudson, Anthony Mackie, Jeffrey Wright and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje.)
Additionally, Scaramucci and Pressman attempted to make a biopic about Jackie Robinson, but couldn’t negotiate a deal with his widow, Rachel, for the rights to the film. After that fell through, the two pursued the rights to Posnanski’s book for a film adaptation.
Scaramucci, who also owns a stake in the New York Mets, did not attend Paterno‘s premiere in Manhattan, citing a previous engagement in Los Angeles. He said Pressman invited him to the premiere, however.