De Niro to play Vince Lombardi in biopic

Actor signs on for ESPN Films project about legendary coach

Robert De Niro has taken on real-life boxer Jake LaMotta. Now he is attached to play legendary coach Vince Lombardi in the bigscreen pic “Lombardi” for ESPN Films, Andell Entertainment and the NFL.

Eric Roth (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) has signed on to pen the script, which will chronicle the coach’s career during the years he transformed the Green Bay Packers from the worst team in the NFL into five-time champs.

Chris Olsen is producing alongside Tribeca Prods.’ De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. ESPN/Andell, which acquired Lombardi’s life story rights via his estate and Vincent Lombardi Jr., also nabbed the rights to the tome “Instant Replay” written by former Packer Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap.

“We’ve had an extraordinary relationship with ESPN for five years through the Tribeca Film Festival, and now we’re able to extend that association into production,” said Rosenthal, co-founder of the Gotham fest.

Producers are aiming to release the film on the weekend between the AFC and NFC Conference Championships and the Super Bowl in 2012. There is no distributor yet.

CAA, which reps De Niro and Roth, also works with ESPN Films on its bigscreen projects.