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Benicio del Toro set to play Pablo Escobar

Dimitri Rassam to produce thriller romance 'Paradise Lost'

PARIS

Benicio del Toro is in final negotiations to play notorious Colombian cocaine trafficker Pablo Escobar in “Paradise Lost,” a Panama-set €20 million ($25 million) thriller romance produced by Dimitri Rassam’s Chapter 2.

Inspired by true events, pic turns on Nick, a young surfer who visits his brother in Colombia and falls madly in love with a beautiful local girl called Maria. Their romance seems idyllic until he meets her uncle, Escobar.

Italian thesp-turned-filmmaker Andrea di Stefano (“Life of Pi”) penned the script and is set to make his directorial debut with “Paradise.”

Frederique Dumas’ Studio 37, the film arm of telco group Orange, and Jerome Seydoux’s Pathe have teamed to co-produce and fully finance the pic. Pathe will handle distribution in France and international sales.

Del Toro is “one of the rare actors with enough charisma and range to play such a multi-faceted character as Escobar, who could be wonderfully charming yet dangerous and menacing,” Rassam said.

He noted that “Paradise” isn’t an Escobar biopic. It “will have a narrative structure in the vein of ‘The Last King of Scotland,’ weaving Nick and Maria’s romance with Nick’s ambivalent and destructive relationship with Escobar,” Rassam explained.

The 11-week shoot will kick off in March in Panama.

One of France’s top indie players, Rassam, who is the son of producer Jean-Pierre Rassam and cousin of Thomas Langmann, is coming off a strong 2012.

He produced comedy hit “Le Prenom” and has two titles in post: “Gibraltar” (formerly known as “The Informant”), a crime thriller starring Gilles Lellouche and Tahar Rahim; and “The Scapegoat,” a drama with Berenice Bejo and Emir Kusturica. He also produced Kirsten Dunst-starrer “Upside Down,” which will bow in France in April.

His development slate includes 3D toon feature “The Little Prince,” helmed by “Kung Fu Panda” co-director Mark Osborne.

Two other films about Pablo Escobar developed in Hollywood a few years ago failed to get off the ground — “Escobar,” with Antoine Fuqua directing and Oliver Stone producing, and “Killing Pablo,” with Joe Carnahan directing and Bob Yari financing.

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