El Chapo Movie

Ridley Scott may go back to the drug trade at some point in the future. The director explored some ugly inevitabilities of the drug trade in The Counselor, and now he is signed to make a film based on Don Winslow‘s recent novel The Cartel.

The novel, which follows ten years’ worth of the diverging paths of two former friends, one in the DEA and the other in a drug cartel, is based in part on the story of Cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, who has made global headlines since escaping from a Mexican prison earlier this month. While The Cartel won’t quite be an El Chapo movie, but it might be close.

Update: Following the initial report about this project, further info emerged saying that Leonardo DiCaprio is being courted to play the character Keller. More below.

THR reports details; Shane Salerno, who also scripted the Don Winslow adaptation Savages, directed by Oliver Stone, will write the screenplay. This new novel has had great reviews and word of mouth, and the trade says this deal is the result of “intense interest from the major studios and producers.”

The question, as always with Ridley Scott, is where this fits into his lineup of projects. The Martian is basically done, and he’s still maybe, possibly going to make Prometheus 2. The Cartel is set up at Fox, where Scott has done most of his recent work; we’ll report on the project again if it becomes his next film.

In the meantime, here’s a long account of the novel:

It’s 2004. DEA agent Art Keller has been fighting the war on drugs for thirty years in a blood feud against Adán Barrera, the head of El Federación, the world’s most powerful cartel, and the man who brutally murdered Keller’s partner. Finally putting Barrera away cost Keller dearly—the woman he loves, the beliefs he cherishes, the life he wants to lead.

Then Barrera gets out, determined to rebuild the empire that Keller shattered. Unwilling to live in a world with Barrera in it, Keller goes on a ten-year odyssey to take him down. His obsession with justice—or is it revenge?—becomes a ruthless struggle that stretches from the cities, mountains, and deserts of Mexico to Washington’s corridors of power to the streets of Berlin and Barcelona.

Keller fights his personal battle against the devastated backdrop of Mexico’s drug war, a conflict of unprecedented scale and viciousness, as cartels vie for power and he comes to the final reckoning with Barrera—and himself—that he always knew must happen.

The Cartel is a story of revenge, honor, and sacrifice, as one man tries to face down the devil without losing his soul. It is the story of the war on drugs and the men—and women—who wage it.

Update: After we ran this, Deadline reported that Leonardo DiCaprio is the choice to play Keller.

Fox has dropped a lot of money on this already  — about $6m for book rights to The Cartel and The Power of the Dog, the Winslow novel that precedes it, and screenwriting paychecks for Winslow and Shane Salerno — which means they’re already deep into this. That can probably be read as an indicator of how quickly Fox wants this to happen, too.

Some of the talk about this project paints it as a thing with Godfather-like potential, and locking in DiCaprio to play one of the two lead roles would position it at the very least on the level of The Departed, and that ain’t bad for Fox. We’ll report on the direction the casting eventually goes.

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