Why Javier Bardem's Drug Drama Won't "Get Involved" With Sean Penn, El Chapo

'Escobar,' which co-stars Penelope Cruz and tells the story of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, will not feature a cameo from real-life drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the Nu Image/Millennium films' founder Avi Lerner tells THR.
Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images; JB Lacroix/WireImage
Javier Bardem (left) and Avi Lerner (right)

Javier Bardem might have been in Cannes to support Sean Penn's The Last Face, which face-planted after poor reviews, but he also was working the fest to help sell his Pablo Escobar drug drama, Escobar, from Nu Image/Millennium Films. Talking to THR, company founder Avi Lerner was quick to distance his project from Penn's, not because of the scathing reception but because of that other drug kingpin — Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Don't expect to see any storylines associated with El Chapo: "I don't want to get involved with the FBI or with Sean Penn, not with any of [that situation]," Lerner said, referring to Penn's infamous Rolling Stone interview with the drug lord months before his January capture. "No, not a cameo, nothing." Lerner said Escobar is a "fascinating story about a person who is the biggest drug dealer in the world and, on the other side, a devoted family man."

Bardem is set to star opposite real-life wife Penelope Cruz, with Fernando Leon de Aranoa directing; shooting is set to start this year. "It's also a love story between [Escobar] and a journalist," Lerner adds. "The contrast of his life is what fascinated the world and what we hope will fascinate the world again with Javier Bardem playing Pablo Escobar."

This story first appeared in the June 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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