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As it completes its festival run ahead of awards season, Escobar: Paradise Lost, Andrea Di Stefano‘s look at notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, is gaining critical momentum.
Benicio Del Toro‘s central performance as the scruffy pot-bellied Escobar is getting most of the attention, but Di Stefano’s directing — it is the Italian actor’s debut behind the camera — is also garnering praise.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the Zurich Film Festival, Di Stefano said he was determined to not deliver the sex, drugs and guns biopic everyone expected.
“It is the first movie made about Escobar, so everyone wanted to see Scarface 2,” said Di Stefano, adding, ironically: “I made three choices to make my life easier with investors: make a movie about Escobar and never show cocaine, have him talk Spanish in the opening scene and never show Pablo Escobar being violent onscreen.”
Indeed, the only person to kill onscreen in Escobar: Paradise Lost is Nick, a naive and innocent Canadian (played by Hunger Games star Josh Hutcherson) who is pulled against his will into Escobar’s world.
Del Toro, who joked he has “done it all” when it comes to onscreen drugs — “I’ve been the junkie, I’ve been the one going after the dealers, I’ve been the one who sells them,” — said he tried to capture the contradictions in Escobar’s story. Even at the height of his terror, when he declared war on the Columbian state, Pablo Escobar had wide public support within the country.
“The film is clear. Escobar had two faces. He was a family man. He seduced a whole country, but at the same time he brings it down,” said Del Toro. “That was Pablo. He became a Robin Hood who also bled the country out.”
After screenings at the Telluride, Toronto, San Sebastian and Zurich film festivals, Escobar begins its theatrical rollout. First up are bows in France and Spain in early November, followed by a domestic bow via Radius expected later in the year.
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