01/24/2013 10:04 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Al Pacino As Joe Paterno: When Good Actors Go Bad, They Stay Bad (VIDEO)

It's official: Al Pacino will star in Brian De Palma's "Happy Valley" as the late Joe Paterno, one of the most divisive figures in recent American history. Of course, Pacino is no stranger to morally knotty roles, and De Palma's direction gives "Happy Valley" an instant "Scarface" reunion boost. But the grandmother in us wonders: is this really such a good idea, Al?

Because messy characters, as Anthony "I Am Norman Bates" Perkins can attest, have a tendency to stick. From this occupational hazard, even established performers aren't safe. Take the great Swiss actor Bruno Ganz. He won raves for his work as the angel Damiel in Wim Wenders' dreamy masterpiece "Wings Of Desire," but that is likely not how he will be remembered. Thanks to an infinite number of YouTube parodies, today Ganz is best known as the guy who played Adolf Hitler in "Downfall."

Paterno isn't Hitler, but the takeaway from Ganz's tale can still be applied: play a character with a dark side, and be prepared to stay there for awhile. Below are some more long-lasting cinematic villains to consider before you give us your forecast. Will Pacino regret this one? Or should we save our nerves for whoever plays Jerry Sandusky?

When A Good Actor Goes Bad