Ridley Scott to Tackle Don Winslow's El Chapo Novel for Fox (Exclusive)

Ridley Scott
AP Images

Just published in June, 'The Cartel' offers a fictional take on the notorious Sinaloa drug boss whose daring July 18 escape from a Mexican prison dominated international news headlines.

Fox and Ridley Scott are teaming up to adapt The Cartel, Don Winslow's much-heralded novel that has parallels to the real-life escape of drug lord El Chapo.

Scott will direct the movie and produce with his Scott Free Films president Michael Schaefer. Shane Salerno will write the script and also produce via his shingle, Story Factory.

The movie deal went down Wednesday night after intense interest from the major studios and producers. Execs and observers had been eyeing the project not just for the ripped-from-the-headlines similarities but also for the acclaimed reviews of the book that are praising it as a south-of-the-border version of The GodfatherSteve Asbell will oversee the project for the studio.

The deal also includes Fox's pick up of the movie rights to Winslow's novel, The Power of the Dog, which is Cartel's precursor.

Winslow couldn’t have timed the publication of the book any better. 

The July 18 escape of notorious Sinoloa drug cartel boss Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán from a Mexican prison came less than a month after his novel, which fictionalizes Guzman’s story, went on sale. 

Cartel tells the intertwined story of Art Keller and Adan Berrera, friends whose paths diverged when Keller went to work for DEA and Berrera joined the Sonora drug cartel. Roughly covering the years from 2004-2014, its a follow up to his 2006 bestseller, The Power of the Dog, which traced the early years of the drug war. 

Winslow did extensive research on El Chapo for the novel, spending more than a decade learning about him. Cartel features a fictional version of Guzman’s first prison escape in 2001, when he supposedly hid in a laundry cart to get out. 

Since the escape, Winslow has been appearing on news programs and blogging about the escape.

Scott is prepping his latest, The Martian, which stars Matt Damon, for a fall release. He previously took on the cartel culture with 2013's The Counselor. He is repped by WME.

Salerno's credits range from Armageddon to Oliver Stone’s adaptation of Winslow’s drug cartel book Savages. He is also Winslow's book agent. Salerno is also working with James Cameron on Avatar 4.

CAA brokered the movie deal and reps Salerno and Winslow. Salerno is also repped by Sloane Offer.

July 23, 12:35 Updated to reflect that Winslow is not writing the script for the adaptation.

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