EuropaCorp has set Michael Caleo to write “Volcano,” a crime drama that focuses on the small Bahamian island of Norman’s Cay, which was turned into the fulcrum of cocaine smuggling and a hedonistic paradise by Carlos Lehder, the right-hand man of Medellin Cartel leader Pablo Escobar.
EuropaCorp’s Luc Besson, who hatched the idea for the film, will produce with Virginie Silla Besson.
Caleo, an Emmy-nominated writer of “The Sopranos” and “Rescue Me,” was tapped by Besson after he scripted “Normandy” for EuropaCorp; that contemporary drama concerns a Mafia boss who hides in France. Caleo also scripted “Gang Leader for a Day” for Craig Brewer to direct.
The island of Norman’s Cay became the smuggling base for the Medellin Cartel after Lehder took over the island by force, payoffs and bribery. Caleo said that 75% of the cocaine that came to the U.S. in the early 1980s was funneled through the island until the U.S. government launched a full-scale assault — and Lehder and Escobar turned against each other. Escobar was killed and Lehder captured.
“This guy’s character is fascinating. His father was a Nazi hiding in South America until he was captured and killed by Jewish fighters,” Caleo said. “He built this coke empire to give back to the poor, but it all became twisted
Caleo said he was most fascinated with the discovery that the late CBS newsman Walter Cronkite played a major role in bringing down Lehder, which led to the demise of the cocaine cartel.
“The island had been owned by vacationers, and one was Walter Cronkite, and when he sailed in with his yacht, he was greeted by men with guns who would not let him on the island,” Caleo said. “He said, ‘Do you know who I am?,’ and they were shooting at him. About five years later, when the case was tried in Florida, it looked like all the testimony came from ex-cons, when the doors open and Cronkite walks up and takes the stand. Lehder was sentenced to 125 years.”