Five reasons why we're excited about Narcos
- Henry Northmore
- 19 August 2015
Meet Netflix's new original series about drug lord Pablo Escobar and the cops out to catch him
Netflix's latest original series heads back to the 80s to tell the story of notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, and the DEA agents tasked with bringing him to justice. And here's why we're getting ready to binge watch season one:
The true story of Pablo Escobar is fascinating. He started as a street criminal and moved through grand theft auto to kidnapping and smuggling, before becoming the world's most notorious drug kingpin, controlling pretty much the entire cocaine network in Colombia. At the height of his operations his personal wealth was estimated at $30bn.
He topped America's most wanted list for years. Escobar was a cold-hearted killer with a furious temper. It's been suggested that he was responsible for up to 4,000 deaths, including the bombing of Avianca Flight 203, which killed 110 people. But Escobar was a complex character, who also ploughed millions into the poor communities where he operated. He left behind a mixed legacy in Colombia; many call him a villain, while in some areas he's still considered a hero.
Unsurprisingly, America didn't take too kindly to the flow of cocaine across its borders, and set about brining down Escobar's cartel. Actors Boyd Holbrook and Pedro Pascal got to meet the real-life cops Steve Murphy and Javier Peña who they play in Narcos. 'We’ve never had the opportunity to fully tell our side of the story,' says now-retired DEA Agent Murphy. 'Pablo was the first recognized narco-terrorist in the world – in fact, Javier and I coined that phrase. This guy was responsible for thousands of murders, simply because of his ego.'
There have been several attempts to bring the story of Pablo Escobar to the screen. Oliver Stone's Escobar has been trapped in development hell since 2009, while Joe Carnahan's adaptation of Mark Bowden's book Killing Pablo similarly stalled. Admittedly there was a 2012 Columbian TV series, Escobar, el Patrón del Mal, and of course there's the fictional Medellin, starring Vincent Chase, as featured in Entourage (even that was a critical and commercial failure). By sheer coincidence, Escobar: Paradise Lost hits cinemas on 21 Aug.
Brazilian director José Padilha, creator and brains behind Narcos, insisted that the vast majority of the series be filmed in Colombia. He also knew who he wanted to cast as Escobar, calling in actor Wagner Moura after they had worked together on Elite Squad and its sequel. 'I wasn’t the obvious choice to play this character; I was a very thin Brazilian guy who didn’t speak Spanish,' explains Moura. 'But that’s one of the things that I love about Padilha: He’s always unpredictable. And I’m really thankful, because it takes a lot of faith in an actor to do what he did, picking me to play this character.' Viewers might also recognise cop duo Holbrook and Pascal from, respectively, Gone Girl and Game of Thrones.
Once of the weirdest subplots in the Escobar story concerns the feral hippos that roam Colombia. Most animals from his private zoo were relocated after Escobar's death in 1993, but the aquatic pachyderms were left behind. And they have thrived; a herd estimated at around 60 animals has settled into a new life in South America, with some spotted up to 150 miles from the compound. Unfortunately we can't confirm their appearance in Narcos.
All ten episodes of Narcos will be available to watch on Netflix on Fri 28 Aug. Find out what else is new on Netflix UK this month.