Javier Bardem & Penelope Cruz Team For 'Escobar'

Many, many moons ago, Javier Bardem was going to play famed drug kingpin Pablo Escobar in Joe Carnahan‘s “Killing Pablo,” but the movie never got off the ground. But the real life figure has certainly captured the cinematic imagination. Benicio del Toro portrayed him in “Escobar: Paradise Lost,” while Netflix is currently airing “Narcos,” a series which offers a deeper narrative look at the figure. Now another movie is coming, which will find Bardem finally getting to play the part, but in a story that focuses on an interesting corner of the criminal’s life.

Bardem and his wife, Penelope Cruz, will star in the simply titled “Escobar.” Fernando León de Aranoa (“A Perfect Day“) is writing the script and directing the movie, based on the book “Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar” by TV host Virginia Vallejo, which details the author’s relationship with Escobar. Here’s the rather extensive book synopsis, which highlights that there is much more to this story, which took some surprising and dangerous turns after Escobar’s death:

In 1983 Virginia Vallejo was, at thirty three, Colombia’s number one television star. A sophisticated socialite, the multilingual professional beauty had been courted by the country’s traditional billionaires when she met and fell in love with a man named Pablo Escobar. The ambitious politician of humble origins -also thirty-three – introduced the elegant anchor-woman to a new world of unbelievable wealth in which never-ending floods of money poured into his charitable works and the campaign of the Presidential candidate of his choice, at a time when both Forbes and Fortune listed him as the seventh richest man in the world.

This book describes the birth of the cocaine industry and the evolution of one of the most powerful criminal minds of all times, Escobar’s legendary capacity for corruption and terror, and the links between his trade and the Caribbean dictators, the Colombian Governments of the past quarter of the century, and the U.S. Secret Service. In the early stages of what later became a multi-faceted and stormy romantic relationship, the television journalist who inspired the drug baron’s passion also became his witness of choice for his capacity to subdue presidents and dictators, the extreme right and the extreme left, and everyone who crossed his path in what he considered a fight for a nationalistic cause.

The love story of five years between the screen diva and “The Colombian Robin Hood” is one of glamour and joy, but also one of enduring suffering and shame. It goes from her luxurious suites at the most elegant hotels in the world, New York and Beverly Hills, Venice and Zürich, Mexico and Rio, the Hamptons mansions and the Park Avenue penthouses, to Escobar’s ranch, a 6,200 acre spread, a tiny island in the Colombian Caribbean and the Berlin Wall in 1989.

After her relationship with Escobar ended in 1987 -and especially after his death in 1993- Virginia Vallejo became a social pariah: she was blacklisted, threatened, scorned and humiliated in every possible way by the media and allies of presidential families supported by Escobar and his rivals, the Rodríguez-Orejuela brothers. Journalists on the payroll of both drug cartels were used by them to publicly warn her that her face would be cut with razors and she would be tortured to death if she ever opened her mouth.

Her twenty years of silence came to an end on July 18th 2006, when she fled Colombia for the USA on a chartered jet of the Drug Enforcement Agency after accusing Escobar’s candidate -then on trial- of being the instigator of the death of Luis Carlos Galán, the honest political leader who would have become Colombia’s President in 1990. The criminal case -which was supposed to take another two months- was closed the day before she could testify. In protest, the Colombian Ambassador to Washington resigned his post and a new Foreign Affairs Minister linked to the paramilitaries was appointed.

Virginia Vallejo’s departure made front-page news on 42 newspapers worldwide and her only radio interview to The Voice of America was repeatedly aired in 36 countries. When she realized that if she returned to Colombia on a jet specially chartered for her by the American Government she would disappear or be tortured by the Secret Service or the drug cartels, so she chose to stay on American soil with half a ton of luggage and two dollar-quarters in her wallet, her only capital at the time. The Rodríguez trial never took place: on September 26th 2006 both brothers pleaded guilty, after accepting to hand over $2.1 billion in assets to the American and Colombian Governments.

This will mark the first project together for Bardem and Cruz since Ridley Scott‘s “The Counselor,” though they didn’t share any scenes together — you’d have to go back to Woody Allen‘s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” for that. [Deadline]