By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood March 6, 2013 at 2:34PM
Relativity Media has taken rights to a script about the manhunt for cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar, called "Silver or Lead." The original draft is from Michael Kane, while Piers Ashworth's screenplay will serve as the basis for Spanish director Enrique Urbizu, yet another overseas helmer making his English-language debut.
"Silver of Lead" will center on the conflict between Escobar and General Hugo Martinez, as chronicled in Simon Strong's book "Whitewash: Pablo Escobar and the Cocaine Wars." Relativity has the rights to the book, as well as life rights to Escobar, Martinez and former Bogota DEA chief Joe Toft. Ryan Kavanaugh will produce with Mark Canton, Donald Kushner and Leigh Ann Burton. Canton says hopefully that the project is "reminiscent of 'The Untouchables.'"
As for that title: Escobar had a phrase, "Plata o Plomo," meaning you could take his silver or his lead. Johnny Depp already played American cocaine king George Jung in "Blow," and starred in Roman Polanski's "Ninth Gate," which Urbizu co-wrote. Who could tackle the role of Escobar?
Like Juan Antonio Bayona ("The Orphanage," "The Impossible") and
Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur ("Contraband," "The Deep"), Urbizu continues the trend of Hollywood tapping foreign directors after overseas success. (Last year Urbizu's "No
Rest for the Wicked" won a record 14 Goyas.) Ditto Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, who made the transition to Ryan Gosling's "Drive" and the upcoming "Only God Forgives" after
"Pusher" and "Bronson" made a splash with Hollywood insiders.
The point: American directors have serious foreign competition, both at home and abroad.
SILVER OR LEAD – accept a bribe, or forever wear a target on your back. This is the choice that General Hugo Martinez faces when he refuses the world’s most controversial and notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar, and his six million dollar ‘request’ for Martinez to call off his relentless pursuit. Based on true events, this thrilling, epic action drama tells the story of the ruthless, charismatic Pablo Escobar and the man who risked it all to try to bring him to justice.