Robert De Niro Bags Vince Lombardi Role

ESPN Films has picked Academy Award-winning actor Robert De Niro to portray legendary National Football League coach Vince Lombardi in a film set for a 2012 release. ESPN Films said the film will focus on Lombardi’s masterful work while coach of the Green Bay Packers.

Academy Award winner Eric Roth has been tapped to write the script. NFL vice-president for programming Charles Coplin expressed his excitement about getting De Niro, saying they are “thrilled” to have the veteran actor. “There are few actors who could accurately portray the fire, passion and grit of Lombardi.”

The film, which is tentatively set for release before the 2012 Super Bowl, will be De Niro’s second turn to play a sports icon. In 1980, De Niro won an Oscar Best Actor for his portrayal of boxer Jake LaMotta in the movie “Raging Bull.”

Lombardi became a legend by turning the Green Bay Packers from perennial tail-enders to the most dominant NFL team in the 1960’s. He helped the Packers win five league championships from 1959 to 67, including the first two Super Bowls. The NFL trophy was renamed in Lombardi’s honor a week after he died from cancer in 1970 at the age of 57.