The Insight on Cocaine Cowboys
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Corben and Spellman aren’t the only ones cashing in on the success of CC. Jon Roberts, whose drug-dealing adventures supplied the original film with much of its narrative fireworks, has secured a deal of his own. Working through another Hollywood talentagency heavyweight, Endeavor (since merged with William Morris), he sold the rights to his life story to Paramount Pictures, which is currently developing a film version directed by Peter Berg (The Kingdom, Hancock). Mark Wahlberg and Leonardo DiCaprio reportedly have already signed to play Roberts and Mickey Munday. Roberts’ money is on Salma Hayek to land the role of Griselda Blanco.
Sitting in a Miami Starbucks and sporting camouflage shorts, a tan T-shirt and black sneaks, Roberts looks more like the suburban dad next door than one of Miami’s most infamous ex-drug dealers. That is, until he starts hyping his latest project. “This film is going to blow everybody’s mind,” exclaims Roberts. “Cocaine Cowboys was just about Miami, which was a little operation.” Roberts promises the new movie will detail his much more extensive operation out of Louisiana, as well as his undercover dealings with the United States government, which he claims recruited him to fly weapons to the Contras in Nicaragua in the ’80s. Writer Evan Wright of Generation Kill fame is writing both the movie script and a book based on Roberts’ experiences.
There has been talk of a falling-out between Roberts and Rakontur—the competing projects might have something to do with it—but Corben and Spellman, for their part, wish Roberts well. “I’m very happy that Jon was able to parlay his appearance in CC into something,” says Corben. “He and Mickey have this icon status, which is great for us.”
Corben and Spellman can afford to vibe magnanimous. No one, it seems, can get enough of Rakontur’s street-level stories about Miami’s outlaw ways. The U, about the University of Miami football team’s rise to glory and notoriety in the ’80s, aired in December as part of ESPN’s 30th-anniversary celebration. Dawg Fight, about Miami’s illegal backyard fight circuit, is in post production and will be released this summer, as will Limelight, on the rise and fall of the great New York club scene of the 1980s.
While not, strictly speaking, a South Florida film (though this being a Rakontur production, you just know there will be a connection), Limelight nevertheless reflects the producing duo’s abiding interest in that other famed Miami industry—clubland. In 2008, Spellman, along with nightlife maven Keith Paciello, opened Bella Rose, a laid-back, loungy throwback to the early days of South Beach. “The plan was to build it just like Cocaine Cowboys,” explains Spellman. “People open clubs and invite stars from out of town and pay them. We just invited our friends, and it grew from there.”
It certainly did. Though temporarily closed for relocation, Bella Rose has become a draw for hipsters, A-listers and CC groupies. “We get a lot of attention because of it,” says Spellman. “It’s an extension of the Rakontur brand.”
TOP IMAGE: Miami police detectives pose with confiscated weapons and drugs from a 1987 drug bust.
RIGHT IMAGE: Billy Corben and Alfred Spellman, the director/producer team behind Cocaine Cowboys phenomenon.
portrair by mateo garcia
Cover shoot: Behind the scenes with Pitbull for the October 2014 issue of Ocean Drive magazine.