Netflix's Narcos is already an international smash hit, but the man at the center of the story— legendary Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar — has had his story told countless times on the big and small screen.
Since his death in 1993, Escobar has been condemned, glorified, and ultimately immortalized in movies and television. Every actor tapped to play the kingpin has portrayed the man in a slightly different light —from chubby and charismatic family man, to cold-blooded killer.
Here's a look at the many faces of Pablo Escobar throughout the years:
Wagner Moura plays Escobar in Narcos
Moura’s version of Escobar speaks Spanish with a Brazilian accent and shoots a penetrating stare that makes people freeze in their tracks. The Brazilian actor, best known for playing a ruthless special ops officer in Elite Squad (2007), portrays a ballsy but increasingly psychotic man who will stop at nothing to fight U.S. extradition — even if that means blowing up a plane filled with civilians.
Moura still offers the audience brief glimpses of humanity, but don’t be fooled. The Escobar in Narcos is a man who lives in a binary world of two choices: “plata o plomo” — money or bullets.
Benicio Del Toro plays Escobar in Paradise Lost
Del Toro knows the drug war narrative inside out. He’s played a Mexican federale in Traffic (2000), a brutal hitman in Savages (2012), and a bordertown mercenary in the upcoming Sicario (2015). The Puerto Rican actor also got a chance to play Escobar in the indie film Paradise Lost (2014).
“Del Toro could be playing with children in a pool or ordering a young man to commit murder, and he performs both scenes with the same genuine intensity,” writes film critic Brian Tallerico on the actor’s performance.
Critics also hailed Del Toro’s physical transformation to play a bearded “Uncle Pablo” in his final days. The actor’s signature baggy and piercing eyes help him rival the creepy stares delivered by Wagner Moura in Narcos.
Andrés Parra plays Escobar in El Patrón del Mal
In this commercially successful Colombian television series actor Andrés Parra plays a chubby, funny, chatty and charismatic Escobar. This version of the drug lord lacks the intimidating presence of Moura or Del Toro, but Parra still gets props for pulling off the fatty, sociopath look.
Parra says he got tired of playing the role when people on the streets of Colombia started calling him “Pablo.” The actor told Colombian magazine Semana that the fear of being typecast led him to turn down a subsequent opportunity to play a role in a big narco-themed Hollywood production.
Adrien Grenier plays Vincent Chase who plays Escobar in Entourage
In the fourth season of HBO’s Entourage, Adrian Grenier plays Hollywood star Vincent Chase who’s playing Escobar in the highly-anticipated drug war drama "Medellin." After a hellish shoot that goes over budget, the film premieres at Cannes only to be trashed by critics and audiences alike.
“Our next film is Medellin, the ultra-violent story of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, starring Vincent Chase in a fat suit and bad makeup that makes him look like the love child of Jiminy Glick and a case of Twinkies,” says film critic Richard Roeper, playing himself.
Chase’s Escobar can barely speak Spanish with a gringo accent and has a fake mustache that looks like it could fall off in his coffee. It's a subtle warning to Hollywood of what can happen if a handsome white actor is tapped to play a Colombian drug lord: straight to DVD.
Cliff Curtis plays Escobar in Blow
In this film about '70s and '80s cocaine smuggler George Jung, Escobar is introduced in a memorable way: he shakes a man’s hand and then has one of his killers shoot him in the head.
Still, Curtis’ take on Escobar is pretty generic and unmemorable. He tells Johnny Depp’s character he needs to find an Americano he can trust to ship his cocaine into the United States; an Americano with “honor” and “intelligence.”
“You need an Americano with balls,” Depp replies.
Sadly, that’s exactly what Curtis’ Escobar is missing.
Javier Bardem to play Escobar in an upcoming biopic?
Javier Bardem and his wife Penelope Cruz will soon be starring in a new biopic based on the book Loving Pablo, Hating Escobar.
It’s unclear if Bardem will assume the role of Colombia’s most notorious drug lord, but the actor has already proved he can deliver the psychopath-with-bad-hair in No Country For Old Men (2007). Bardem also recently played another drug kingpin with bad hair in Ridley Scott’s The Counselor (2013).
We look forward to that Escobar.
And who will be playing Escobar in “Mena” starring Tom Cruise?
Even Tom Cruise is getting in on Escobar action. The aging action hero is starring in a film about an American pilot-turned-drug-smuggler-turned CIA informant in this 1980s Colombia period flick.
So far the only news to come out of the shoot in Medellin is that a real plane crashed on set, killing two real people. The movie reportedly will deal with the Iran-Contra scandal, which triangulated aid to anti-government rebels in Nicaragua and helped spawn Escobar’s infamous Medellin Cartel.
And who's your favorite Pablo Escobar?