EXCLUSIVE: Catherine Zeta-Jones, nominated for a Golden Globe for her turn as the ruthless wife of a drug lord in 2000’s Traffic, has landed an even juicier role in the true story crime biopic The Godmother. In a new film directed by Norwegian helmer Eva Sørhaug (90 Minutes, Cold Lunch) Zeta-Jones will play real life kingpin Griselda Blanco, the first and only woman to rise to the higher echelons of Colombia’s Medellin drug cartel.
Blanco was a fearsome figure at the center of the Miami drug wars of the 1970s and ’80s depicted in the 2006 Magnolia Pictures-Rakontur documentary Cocaine Cowboys and its 2008 sequel, Cocaine Cowboys 2. Her reign of terror, in which she’s suspected to have ordered hundreds of assassinations to stay in money and power, was so vicious and violent that it earned her the nicknames La Madrina, Black Widow, and the Cocaine Godmother.
Blanco was also one of the biggest success stories of her generation in the drug game. Born in Cartagena, Colombia, she rose from her roots as a teenage runaway and prostitute and emigrated to New York where she started a cocaine business with her husband. Indicted on federal charges, she fled back to Colombia but resurfaced in Miami. There she established a distribution network connecting New York, Miami, LA, and Colombia that made her a multi-millionaire by her forties. After a 1985 arrest the mother of four served 18 years in prison before being released in 2004. She was deported back to Colombia, where she was killed in a motorcycle drive-by assassination in 2012.
Sørhaug will direct the film from a script by Frank Baldwin. Daniela Cretu is producing for her First Born Films banner, while Oscar-nominated Nicholas Pileggi is executive producer. Filming will begin early next year.
Welsh-born Zeta-Jones earned an Oscar for her turn in Chicago and a Tony for her work in Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music on Broadway. She was seen most recently in the action sequel RED 2 and Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects. She’s repped by WME and Management 360.