Loving Pablo chronicles the rise and fall of the world’s most feared drug lord Pablo Escobar (Javier Bardem) and his volatile love affair with Colombia’s most famous journalist Virginia Vallejo (Penélope Cruz) throughout a reign of terror that tore a country apart.
About the Production
Based on Virginia Vallejo’s best-selling book “Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar,” Loving Pablo stars Javier Bardem as the title character with Penélope Cruz portraying Vallejo, who was romantically linked with Escobar, eventually receiving numerous death threats following her exposure of Colombian government corruption. It took Bardem, who also served as one the film’s producers, several years to put the film together. “Since 1998 I have been intrigued by the character ‘Pablo Escobar’ as a person. Over the last twenty years, I have been offered a number of Escobar roles, but I always refused them because they didn’t invoke any feeling beyond a stereotype.”
Pablo Escobar is infamous for changing the history of crime in the last decades of the 20th century. The wealthiest criminal in history, he had an estimated net worth of US $30 billion in the early 1990s — equivalent to more than $55 billion in today’s dollars — making him one of the richest men in the world during his reign as ‘the King of Cocaine.’ Escobar’s charisma and contagious popularity propelled him to a brief career in politics in his home country of Colombia, and his cartel supplied an estimated 80% of the cocaine smuggled into the United States at the height of his career, turning over $21.9 billion a year in personal income.
Escobar’s reign as a drug lord in Colombia ultimately plunged the South American country into two decades of turmoil, with Escobar becoming one of the most wanted fugitives in the world. The son of a farmer, at one point was the seventh richest person on the planet. His ruthless approach to drug trafficking led to the deaths of 3,000 people. It stands to reason that such a dramatic real-life character would inspire many documentaries, feature films, and television after his death in December 1993.
A Fresh Take
“Loving Pablo begins when Pablo Escobar is already an established businessman,” says Bardem, “but people hadn’t yet figured out how he was making his money. He meets Virginia, and through their relationship and her platform, he soon becomes a powerful public figure with a voice for the people. The people of Colombia are in need, and he gains their support. He wants to run the country. He wants to change things, and some of those things are for the better of the people – but there’s always a motive. There’s always something selfish behind those actions, and people don’t realize this until it’s too late. That’s where the movie starts, and the story is that of the people around him as they realize what kind of a person he has become.”
“Our approach to Escobar’s story is unique,” says León de Aranoa. “I have read much history, a lot of news of the time and declassified files. Virginia was very close to Escobar with privileged access into his mind, his way of functioning, his way of thinking, and behaving. I think that in Virginia, Pablo found a confidant, a very close person to trust and someone who he could convey his innermost ideas and intentions, which makes her a unique character and gives our story a fresh perspective.”
Pablo and Virginia
The most notorious drug kingpin in history and a prolific current affairs journalist who ultimately became a whistleblower for political corruption form an unexpected bond – a complicated romance filled with contradictions.
Bardem says, “Our portrayal of Pablo and Virginia are fully fleshed out human beings rather than stereotypes. We don’t hide their monstrous sides – we don’t apologize for anyone. We try to understand the motivation behind Pablo’s actions and why Virginia supported him at the beginning. And I think that relationship dynamic and the different aspects of their love are things that people today can relate to.”
“That’s why it’s called Loving Pablo – because this movie is through Virginia’s eyes and the eyes of those who loved Pablo the human being. Our movie is about what happens when these people ultimately discover what kind of a person Pablo really was. What distinguishes this story from other Pablo Escobar stories is the relationship with Virginia Vallejo, the journalist who was his lover… how their union becomes something more than physical, but intellectual. They built each other up.”
Bardem continues, “This movie will appeal to the audience on a personal level. We are all human, yet we all have the potential to become monsters like Escobar. The film explores the relationships Pablo Escobar had in his life, which humanizes him to the audience. There are amazing action moments, but most of all this story is about relationships – love, hate, greed, ambition, pain, and joy.”