Robert De Niro

This is Vince Lombardi.

Word from ESPN, which is developing Lombardi for the big screen in conjunction with Andell Entertainment and the NFL, is that former Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi will be played by Robert De Niro.

De Niro’s Tribeca Productions will join ESPN, Andell and the NFL in producing the picture. Writer Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Good Shepherd) has also signed on with the production.

“There are few actors who could accurately portray the fire, passion and grit of Lombardi and we’re thrilled to have Robert De Niro on our team,” said Charles Coplin, the NFL’s vice president of programming. “With the addition of De Niro, Eric and Tribeca Productions, we have a deep bench to produce a film worthy of the legendary coach and American icon.”

I’m a pretty big Bob De Niro fan – I mean, Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, Casino, Raging Bull, Heat, The Godfather II – but I have a tough time seeing De Niro as Lombardi. I guess I’ll have to reserve judgment.

One thing De Niro’s participation does ensure is a much more mainstream audience for the film, which will be based on Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap’s book Instant Replay and focus on Lombardi’s rivalry with Dallas Cowboys’ coach Tom Landry. Although De Niro isn’t a big box office guy, he does make the film infinitely more interesting than say, Mark Walberg playing Vince Papale.

Empty ad slot (#1)!