The Yari Film Group is fast-tracking “Killing Pablo,” the long-gestating biopic about the late Pablo Escobar, with Javier Bardem and Christian Bale toplining.

Project, based on Mark Bowden’s tome “Killing Pablo: The Hunt for the World’s Greatest Outlaw,” has been in development for nearly five years (Daily Variety, Jan. 13, 2003).

Joe Carnahan (“Narc,” “Smokin’ Aces”) remains attached to direct, with Bob Yari, Mark Gordon and Jason Zelin producing.

Bardem is slated to play Escobar, while Bale is in talks to play Major Steve Jacoby, the Delta Force commander who led the hunt for Escobar.

Escobar’s rise as a leader of the drug cartel in Medellin, Colombia, began in the 1970s. After years of terrorizing police and political leaders, Escobar was targeted in 1992 by a coalition of Colombian police and military, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and the CIA; he was killed the following year.

Reflecting his notoriety, Escobar served as the basis for the drug kingpin in Tom Clancy’s “Clear and Present Danger”; the airport in the videogame “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” is named after him; and a story arc about a fictional biopic of the druglord — “Medellin” — has run through multiple seasons of HBO’s “Entourage.”

“Killing Pablo” was originally set up with Paramount and DreamWorks co-financing and Yari and Gordon producing via their Stratus Films banner.

“This has been a passion project of mine for years, and it will be a tentpole for our company,” said Yari. “I have been patient to get this done because I wanted the ideal director and cast. It was worth the wait.” 

Yari told Daily Variety that “Killing Pablo” could begin shooting as early as next June if the Screen Actors Guild (which has a June 30 expiration on its current contract) has reached a deal for a new contract at that point. If a strike’s imminent, production will wait until after the work stoppage.

Bowden’s previously done the adaptations for “Black Hawk Down” and “Money for Nothing” and a TV documentary based on his book “Guests of the Ayatollah.”

Yari Film Group is about to go into production with “Nothing but the Truth,” a drama written and directed by Rod Lurie and starring Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon, Alan Alda and Vera Farmiga, as well as “The Lonely Maiden,” a comedy directed by Peter Hewitt and written by Mike LeSieur. Morgan Freeman, Christopher Walken and William H. Macy star in the latter.