Is Blow (2001) Based on a True Story?

Directed by Ted Demme, ‘Blow’ is a crime film that narrates the story of George Jung (Johnny Depp), who was born in Massachusetts. Raised in a loving yet poor family, George moves to Los Angeles with his childhood friend Tuna (Ethan Suplee) as an adult. After meeting with a marijuana dealer, Derek Foreal (Paul Reubens), the two are rolling in money by selling marijuana. Soon, they start importing it through a Mexican drug lord. However, George gets arrested and later flees the prison to visit his parents, Fred (Ray Liotta) and Ermine (Rachel Griffiths), who hand him over to the authorities.

George is then sent to the Federal prison in Connecticut, where he meets Diego (Jordi Molla) and learns about the Medellin cartel. After his release, George travels to Colombia to meet with Diego and soon becomes a big name in the cocaine business. The movie tells a complex story of how George gets involved in drugs and the repercussions he faces on personal and legal levels. With a thrilling story about a criminal’s accomplishments and failures, realistic depiction of the 70s, and excellent music, the movie makes many ponder upon the reality of George Jung. Let’s see how real are the roots of ‘Blow!’

Is Blow a True Story?

Yes, ‘Blow’ is based on a true story. The narrative is adapted from Bruce Porter’s 1993 book ‘Blow: How a Small Town Boy Made $100 Million with the Medellín Cocaine Cartel and Lost It All’ by screenwriters David McKenna and Nick Cassavetes. Specifically, the film follows the life of George Jung, one of the biggest names in the cocaine business during the 70s and 80s, who teamed up with Carlos Lehder Rivas, and together they raked in loads of money by smuggling large quantities of cocaine for Pablo Escobar’s powerful Colombian cartel — Medellín Cartel.

Director Ted Demme got fascinated by George Jung’s life when Demme’s friend Denis Leary, who is also the co-producer, told him about Porter’s book in the early 1990s. “Initially, the story was a classic tale of a young man trying to find the American dream, based on what he thought the American dream was and was told it was going to be,” Demme told BBC. “Jung – who represented many of the ideals in America – was also interesting in terms of his importance in the drug trade.”

Demme and Leary’s next step was to get the story from the very source itself. Thus, the duo went to visit George Jung at the Otisville Federal Correctional Institution in New York. It made Demme even more convinced to make the movie. “He was very intoxicating,” Demme said in an interview with New York Post. “We spent six hours with him, and he made us laugh our asses off. Then he would tell us some really sad stories, stories about how his daughter won’t see him, and he made us cry.”

Jordi Mollà as Carlos Lehder

‘Blow’ depicts the titular drug lord who loses it all in the end and just wants his family back. It does not glorify the life that Jung lived as a criminal but rather emphasizes all that he let slip while trying to establish a crime empire. In the movie, while Jung does get to experience the shining parts of the life of a rich criminal, he ultimately is a broken man who could not visit his dying father and pines after a daughter who wants nothing to do with him.

Imaged Credit: Boston Magazine/Youtube

In the biopic, Johnny Depp appears as Jung, while Jordi Mollà’s character Diego Delgado is based on Carlos. Johnny Depp, too, visited Jung while working on his portrayal of the man. He spent two days in the company of George Jung and was amazed by his charisma and flair that once led Jung to the top of the drug chain, and his acknowledgment of his wrongdoings. Depp also sympathized with Jung’s wish to see his daughter given Depp’s recent fatherhood at the time.

Depp and Demme considered Jung not a hardened criminal but a man who got caught in the whirlwind of a flashy criminal life. “I hope that people see that he’s just a human being who got caught up in something bad,” Depp expressed. “I think he’s paid his debt. One thing is for sure: He’ll never go back to this crazy life.” Jung was released from imprisonment in 2014 and passed away on May 5, 2021, in Weymouth, Massachusetts.

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