According to the folks over at Deadline, “Kick-Ass 2″ alum John Leguizamo aggressively pursued the part of Pablo Escobar in Brad Furman’s upcoming film, “King of Cocaine.” Furman, director of the upcoming thriller “Runner, Runner” starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake, wrote the script for the Escobar biopic himself.
Furman had wanted Leguizamo for the part all along, but found that international financiers weren’t keen on the idea. Furman and the actor had worked together on the director’s first film, “The Take,” in 2007- and Furman has credited Leguizamo with launching his directing career with that movie. The studio wanted someone along the lines of Benecio del Toro or Oscar Isaac, but Leguizamo was relentless- a trait that surely shares with Escobar, the drug kingpin that rose from poverty to build an empire until he was gunned down in 1993.
Leguizamo likely saw some parallels between his life and Escobar’s. The actor, throughout his semi-autobiographical one-man shows on Broadway (Mambo Mouth, Freak, Sexaholix) has spoken very candidly about growing up poor on the streets of Queens, NY and dreaming big. Clearly, Leguizamo found a better path to notoriety- as an actor, producer, and writer- but when it came to playing Escobar, he simply refused to take “No” for an answer, despite the fact that that was exactly what he kept being told.
He wanted the role so badly that he even one-upped Marlon Brando himself- who famously stuck cotton balls in his mouth to win the role of Don Corleone in “The Godfather.” Leguizamo reportedly spent $15,000 of his own dollars to film a screen test, hidden beneath a fat suit and layers of makeup. Furman showed the test to the studio without revealing who the actor beneath the makeup was. Relativity Media’s Ryan Kavanaugh and Tucker Tooley were so taken with the test and the eerie resemblance to Escobar that they asked for the actor’s identity. When Furman revealed that it was Leguizamo, they finally agreed to change that “No” to a “Yes.”
That, folks, is dedication. Now let’s just hope that the film itself is good enough to merit all the effort. If it’s anywhere near as good as Furman’s “The Lincoln Lawyer,” then we’re in store for something quite special.