EXCLUSIVE: Many have tried unsuccessfully to get a movie made about Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. (The "Entourage" one doesn't count.) Can the producer of "300" be the one who gets the job done?
Relativity Media has acquired "Silver or Lead," a project from a British writer named Piers Ashworth about the hunt for the notorious drug lord, according to a person with knowledge of the film who was not authorized to talk about it publicly. The movie will be produced by Mark Canton, who brought "300" to the screen, said the person.
In addition to "300," Canton produced "Immortals," the action epic that Relativity is releasing this month. Ashworth is the writer behind several of the movies in the English boarding-school franchise "St. Trinian's." [Update, 11:48 p.m.: A second person with knowledge of the situation confirmed Relativity's negotiations but said the deal details are still being worked out.]
The infamous head of the Medellin drug cartel, Escobar amassed billions in ill-gotten gains, was responsible for numerous murders and even escaped a high-security prison. He became an enemy of the U.S. and Colombian governments, though because of philanthropic efforts became a hero to many ordinary Colombians. He was killed in 1993 by a Colombian strike team after an elaborate manhunt.
Over the past few years, the directors Joe Carnahan and Oliver Stone each failed to get a movie made about Escobar. This spring "The Lincoln Lawyer" director Brad Furman announced he was developing a movie that, according to a producer involved in the project, aimed to be the "Latino Godfather."
Some previous efforts to mount an Escobar feature have centered on the crime lord himself. "Lead," however, is told not from Escobar's point-of-view but from the perspective of a reporter and DEA agent who seek to track him down. (The Carnahan version, based on Mark Bowden’s book “Killing Pablo,” also would have looked at elements of the manhunt.)
ESPN was able to make a documentary, “The Two Escobars,” which looked at the connection between the crime lord and the Colombian national soccer team, while an independent documentary, "Sins of My Father," was made about Escobar's son.
Of course, the HBO series "Entourage" described a fictional Escobar feature called "Medellin" starring the show's Vincent Chase character. But the development mojo that felled the Carnahan and Stone versions also, apparently, affected the fictional movie--"Medellin" bombed and sent Chase on a downward career spiral.
Photo: Pablo Escobar. Credit: Getty Images