After achieving fame by writing and producing the massively popular sports films Hoosiers (1986) and Rudy (1993), Angelo Pizzo fielded numerous requests to pen more inspirational sports stories. At first he feared becoming pigeonholed as the go-to sports-movie guy. But eventually he accepted this destiny as he continued writing screenplays, most of which concerned athletics.
He was born in Wilmette, Illinois in 1948 to Anthony Pizzo, a pathologist, and his wife, Patricia. Three years later they moved to Bloomington, Indiana, where Pizzo grew up. He was an indifferent student at University High School but did much better at Indiana University, where he majored in political science and considered going to law school. But after graduation Pizzo felt directionless and uncertain about his future. He was a movie aficionado; his favorite film genre was epic, larger-than-life pictures that swept him into another world. And he had collected over 150 books on film. But to Pizzo it seemed impossible that he could ever actually work in Hollywood. After his father advised him to identify what he truly loved and then figure out how to make a living at it, Pizzo decided to enroll in film school. At the University of Southern California, he studied motion picture history, theory, and criticism, with the goal of becoming a professor. He left grad school after receiving an opportunity to work in television.
Pizzo’s memories of Indiana high school basketball led him to write his first motion-picture screenplay, “Hoosiers.” He viewed the story as being more about redemption, second chances, and relationships than about sports. “Hoosiers” was directed by his best friend from IU, David Anspaugh. Seven years later they reteamed to make the college football movie “Rudy.” Pizzo saw Rudy’s quest to play football for Notre Dame as being similar to his own youthful dream of working in Hollywood. Pizzo and Anspaugh’s third collaboration was the 1950s World Cup soccer film The Game of Their Lives (2005). Pizzo ventured into directing with another college football drama, My All-American (2015).
Having never really adjusted to life in Hollywood, which he termed “a toxic environment of competitiveness and divisiveness,” Pizzo moved back to his hometown of Bloomington in 2004.