Ridley Scott to Direct El Chapo-Inspired Drug War Drama ‘The Cartel’

Lead Photo: Photo: EPA/Mario Guzman
Photo: EPA/Mario Guzman
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Over the last few weeks, El Chapo’s Hollywood-style prison break has effectively captured the imagination of the world, and a man who was once reviled as a murderous drug lord has emerged as a sort of folk hero who exposed the farcical corruption of Mexico’s political institutions and inspired an unprecedented global meme bonanza. So when’s the movie coming out?

Well, we can’t say for sure when, but we do have confirmation that Ridley Scott has signed on to direct an adaptation of author Don Winslow’s critically lauded narco-fiction novel, The Cartel. Released only six weeks before El Chapo’s escape, the fictionalized story of a DEA agent’s obsessive search for an escaped Mexican kingpin so closely paralleled El Chapo’s own escapades that the book inspired a Hollywood bidding war that had 20th Century Fox outspending Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company with an attractive $6 million paycheck for the story rights.

Don Winslow. Photo: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times
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Winslow’s novel has so far been hailed as a masterpiece of modern crime fiction and earned comparisons to everything from The Godfather to Game of Thrones for its operatic and intricately plotted exploration of the trans-border drug war. Whether the film will elevate the book in same way that Coppola’s adaptation did for Mario Puzo’s The Godfather will be entirely up to Mr. Scott, who has arguably had as many hits as misses in his career.

Speculation is running high that 20th Century Fox is actively courting DiCaprio for the starring role of vengeful DEA agent Art Keller. We can only hope that Scott got the message after his whitewashing of ancient Egypt in Exodus: Gods and Kings, and doesn’t cast him in the role of fictional Mexican druglord Adán Barrera. And there’s that other drug movie directed by Ridley Scott, The Counselor, that some have called “the worst movie ever made.” Let’s hope Cartel doesn’t go in that direction either.