The Insight on Cocaine Cowboys
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Since then, fervent fan interest has fueled the franchise. “We always knew it was going to be a series of films,” says Corben. “After Cocaine Cowboys, people came to us and said, ‘Bro, you didn’t get the whole story. Bro, you didn’t do this, you didn’t do that.’”
Hence, CC II, which the boys released in July 2008, and now CC: Remix, due out this spring. Remix, like the original CC, will be structured in three acts—drugs, money, murders—but with completely different content. “We shot 150 hours of interviews for Cocaine Cowboys,” says Spellman. “That’s what the remix is about—all this stuff that’s really good that didn’t make it into the [first] film.” Then, exhibiting a producer’s practiced flair, he adds, “Rivi is going to solve a cold case from 1981. Rivi is going to tell you what happened in the Kendall 6 killings!” The remix will coincide with Cocaine Cowboys: An Explicit History of Miami’s Drug Rush, an MTV book containing photos, police memos and other bloodstained tidbits from Miami’s “paradise lost” days.
A third installment in the CC series, about the prosecution of legendary Miami drug dealers Willy Falcon and Sal Magluta, is also currently in production. “It’s the biggest drug case in the history of this country,” says Corben, speaking of the series of federal trials that ended with Falcon getting 20 years and Magluta a quasibiblical 195. “For 10 or 15 years, Willy and Sal financed the legal profession in Miami.”
Corben and Spellman seem primed to keep Hollywood awash in CC-related product for almost as long as Willy and Sal kept Miami swimming in snow white. A chance meeting in 2008 with rap mogul Pharrell Williams has led to the development of an animated series for Cartoon Network sister channel Adult Swim. The show, about two dope-peddling brothers in ’80s Miami, is to be titled Square Grouper, after the local nickname for the bales of marijuana that used to regularly wash up on Florida beaches.
But the biggest score for Corben and Spellman appears to have come through their talent agency, William Morris, which put them in touch with another of its clients, director Michael Bay (Bad Boys, Transformers). The initial phone call did not seem promising. “The first thing [Bay] says to me is, ‘I hate documentaries,’” remembers Corben. “Then, after a pause, he says, ‘But I love Cocaine Cowboys.’”
Bay asked them how they would envision a dramatization of the documentary. “I told him I thought the story of the smugglers would make for a great ongoing story,” says Corben. “Cocaine Cowboys is an ensemble piece, which is also what a TV series is. So he says, ‘Okay, let’s pitch it as a TV series and, if that doesn’t work out, we could always make the movie instead.’” Corben laughs. “Only somebody like Michael Bay would see a $200 million movie as a fallback.”
Soon after, Bay roped in megaproducer Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI: Miami, Pirates of the Caribbean), who successfully pitched the series to HBO. Corben and Spellman will serve as executive producers on the show, which is scheduled to premiere next year. Their chief responsibility, they say, will be quality control. “Our job is to get the setting right, make sure the city is accurately represented,” stresses Corben. “There’s going to have to be scenes at Miami Jai-Alai and on the Miami River.” (Each figured in a memorably grisly killing back in the day.)
portrair by mateo garcia
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.