Pablo Escobar was killed in 1993 after a long pursuit by federal authorities. Photo Credit: Siente Panama

Relativity Media announced today that it had acquired the rights to Silver or Lead, a script following the manhunt for one of the world’s most notorious outlaws, cocaine lord Pablo Escobar. Enrique Urbizu, who directed the award-winning Spanish language thriller No Rest For The Wicked, is set to helm the picture from a script by Piers Ashworth (Nostradamus, St. Trinian’s).

They are far from the first team of filmmakers to attempt a project based on Escobar. Two other films — Killing Pablo from director Joe Carnahan (The Grey, The A-Team), and Paradise Lost, which has Benicio del Toro attached to play Escobar along with Josh Hutcherson in another lead role, are also in the works.

The title Silver or Lead is reported to come from a threatening Escobar phrase, “Plata o Plomo,” which represented the difficult choice he presented to his enemies. Here is the official logline from Relativity:

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.

Source material for the script will come from the book “Whitewash: Pablo Escobar and the Cocaine Wars” by Simon Strong. Relativity has also acquired life rights to General Hugo Martinez and Joe Toft, the former chief of the DEA’s Bogota office who was involved in the pursuit, capture, and death of Escobar.

Mark Canton, a producer on the project, spoke about the material’s high-profile status and Ashworth’s unique take. “The story of Pablo Escobar has been one of Hollywood’s hottest properties for many years… I’ve been interested in making an Escobar film since my days at Sony, but never had a project that approached the story from an angle that I felt worked. This one does, with an exciting screenplay whose structure is reminiscent of The Untouchables.”

Urbizu is also enthusiastic. “Piers Ashworth has penned an extraordinary script that captures all the thrilling aspects of Pablo Escobar’s life while championing a classic tale of the battle between two larger than life men who would stop at nothing to achieve their goals.”

No word yet on when filming begins, but with competing projects circulating, these newcomers should act fast if they want to have the first version out of the gate.

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