John Leguizamo Set as Pablo Escobar in Relativity's 'King of Cocaine'
by Ethan Anderton
September 10, 2013
Just last month, we learned that John Leguizamo was one of two actors in the running to play the title Medellin drug cartel kingpin in The Ballad of Pablo Escobar. The project from The Lincoln Lawyer and Runner Runner director Brad Furman has been gestating since 2011, and now it finally has legs with Relativity Media picking up the project with the title King of Cocaine. In addition, Leguizamo has now been confirmed to take the role of Escobar, after names like Oscar Isaac and Benicio del Toro left the project behind. So how did Leguizamo get the part? Well, the make-up tests we featured in our last story were actually funded himself just to audition for the role, and he just wouldn't stop trying being turned down.
That's right, according to Deadline, Leguizamo spent $15,000 of his own money for a fat suit and prosthetic make-up to shoot a screen test with Furman. This was after Leguizamo was already turned down by producer and financier Scott Steindorff. Leguizamo wouldn't take no for an answer, and after seeing the screen test, Steidorff still said no. But Furman pushed for his supporting actor from The Lincoln Lawyer (who also starred in his first film The Take), and convinced Steindorff to submit the test, along with a split-screen comparison, to Relativity, without revealing who was under all the make-up. Upon learning who that Leguizamo was the star in question, Relativity's Tucker Tooley and Ryan Kavanaugh were looking at him in a whole new light and he was hired.
This could be a big turning point for Leguizamo, following in the footsteps of actors like Al Pacino and Marlon Brando in The Godfather, who were both given special attention after screen tests from Francis Ford Coppola proved they were the right men for the job. As someone who has keenly observed the work of Leguizamo for a long time now, from his one-man shows like "Freak" on HBO to his big screen endeavors, I couldn't be happier to see this hard-working actor finally get a role that he deserves. Right now Leguizamo is shooting Cymbeline with Ethan Hawke, and will be seen in The Counselor later this year. Cool?