How John Leguizamo Paid $15K To Get Cast As Pablo Escobar

A few weeks ago, we shared this Tweet/image of John Leguizamo donning prosthetic makeup to transform into Pablo Escobar for a test shoot of the soon-to-enter-production drama King of Cocaine, formerly called Ballad of Pablo Escobar.

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At the time, Leguizamo was facing off against Elysium’s Wagner Moura for the title role in the wake of Inside Llewyn Davis’s Oscar Isaac departure. Deadline now reports Leguizamo has since come out on top, and that the makeup mock up above was a major factor in the filmmakers’ decision.

Director Brad Furman, best-known for helming the Matthew McConaughey vehicle The Lincoln Lawyer, needed no convincing. He had previously worked with Leguizamo on his feature directorial debut The Take back in 2007. Not only was he impressed by Leguizamo’s performance in the lesser-known crime drama, but also Furman credits Leguizamo with igniting his career. His faith in the Colombian-born actor who has long been fascinated by the Colombian drug lord’s rise from poverty to power made Leguizamo Furman’s first pick for the role of Escobar. But foreign investors and the film’s producers were more interested in actors like Oscar Isaac.

Leguizamo’s second chance to land the role came about when Isaac abandoned it, but King of Cocaine producer and financier Scott Steindorff was still unconvinced Leguizamo was right for it. Showing an incredible tenacity, the ambitious actor laid down $15,000 of his own money to create a fat suit and pay for the makeup test above. From there, he and Furman teamed up to shoot test footage to win over Steindoff. The resulting footage, which split screened Leguizamo in character next to archival footage of the real Escobar, was so convincing that some of the features producers didn’t even recognize the actor. At long last Leguizamo won the role he fought like a champ for.

Here’s a Vine showing some of the intense plaster-casting required to for his Escobar makeover.

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Penned by Matthew Aldrich and David McKenna, King of Cocaine has been described as “The Latino Godfather” and is expected to chronicle Escobar’s life with a particular focus on the $3 billion empire he built trafficking cocaine in the 1980s. The film is expected to shoot in Colombia in January of 2014. In the meantime, Leguizamo can be seen in Kick-Ass 2, and fans of Furman can look out for his next release, the Ben Affleck/Justin Timberlake vehicle Runner Runner, which opens October 4th.

Kristy Puchko

Staff writer at CinemaBlend.