Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jennifer Lopez have dueling TV movies in the works based on the life of the same infamous cocaine queen, Griselda Blanco, but the behind the scenes story may be just as intriguing as the actual plot. The storyline all started with the actresses competing for a Blanco biopic years ago that still seems to be in development, but, now, with neither actress attached.
The original project, titled The Godmother, with script by Frank Baldwin and with Daniela C. Cretu attached to direct, announced the casting of Zeta-Jones all the way back in 2014. Though, the decision was met with understandable controversy. Blanco was Colombian. Zeta-Jones is Welsh.
That controversy only heightened when rumors circulated that Zeta-Jones won the role over Lopez, an actual Latina. Producer Bernard Koppes told The Sunday Times in 2016 that Lopez had “lobbied that she was perfect for the role because this is a Latin woman . . . but she was told it’s too challenging, that she doesn’t have the acting quality to pull it off.”
Fast-forward to 2017 and now neither actress is attached. According to IMDB, Academy Award-nominated actress Catalina Sandino Moreno, best known for 2004’s heartbreaking take on drug trafficking Maria Full of Grace, is now listed in the role of Blanco. Though, the Hollywood press never made mention of the casting change.
Lopez, seemingly undeterred, decided to work directly with HBO to make her own take on the Blanco legend. Back in August, she announced the project, adding, “I’ve been fascinated by the life of this corrupt and complicated woman for many years. The idea of teaming with HBO felt like the perfect fit for finally bringing Griselda’s story to life.” In September, Wolf of Wall Street scribe Terrence Winter was brought on to write the script.
All of this brings us to yesterday’s surprising news that Zeta-Jones has somehow found yet another Blanco project to star in. The Hollywood Reporter announced she’ll star in Lifetime’s Cocaine Grandmother. Mexican director Guillermo Navarro is attached, while American History X scribe David Mckenna will handle the script.
So, yes, that’s three Blanco project in the works. Never mind the fact that she was the subject of cult-hit documentary Cocaine Cowboys II, or a recent Univision telenovela.
Maybe you’re wondering what all the hype is about. Well, Blanco’s life is quite a story. Born in Colombia, she moved to Queens, New York in the mid-’70s and, along with her second husband, built up quite the drug ring. She was eventually indicted but escaped back to Colombia. A few years later she returned America, but this time in Miami, as so many cocaine hustlers tend to wind up, and was a major figure in the city’s cocaine wars of the late ’70s and ’80s. In fact, at times she was winning the wars, often killing her competitors while evading their attempts at retaliation. She eventually wound up in jail, but still managed to run her drug empire from beyond bars.
Oh, she also killed at least one of three husbands. She was also openly bisexual.
You can see why there’s such a race to put her tale on screen.
The irony however is that none of the three glamorous actresses attached to star as Blanco in the various projects actually look much like the real life one. Part of the allure of Blanco’s infamy is that she looked rather much like she could be the mother of four next door. Well, if three of those four children wound up dead thank to the drug war she helped carry out.
Though, what’s no odd is that so many films are in development. Competing interests in Hollywood have a tendency to pursue the same subject matter at the same time.