Is Escobar: Paradise Lost Based on a True Story?

‘Escobar: Paradise Lost’ is a crime thriller film that revolves around Nick, a young man from Canada who sets up a surfing goods store in Colombia with his brother. There, he meets and falls in love with Maria. Things quickly escalate and Maria introduces him to her uncle, Pablo Escobar, the notorious Colombian drug lord. Though apprehensive at first, Nick soon starts to admire the man as much as Maria does as he sees how benevolent Escobar is to the people despite his criminal activities.

But everything changes when law enforcement closes in on Escobar and his operation, and he gives Nick a task that just might be too big for him to handle. Directed by Andrea Di Stefano, the 2014 film features the talents of Josh Hutcherson and Benicio Del Toro in the lead roles. Since ‘Escape: Paradise Lost’ features the real-life figure of Pablo Escobar, many of our readers might find themselves wondering whether the story itself is from a part of his life as well. Let’s dive in and find out together!

Is Escobar: Paradise Lost a True Story?

No, ‘Escobar: Paradise Lost’ is not a true story. The screenplay, written by director Andrea Di Stefano himself, however, is based on a story he heard from a policeman about a “young Italian fellow who went to Colombia to meet his brother, somehow became close to the Escobar family, and then got in trouble.” The film expands on this narrative further by creating a believable story revolving around a real-life figure. Though ‘Escobar: Paradise Lost’ is told from the perspective of Nick and Maria, the film is actually about what goes on in the mind of Pablo Escobar and how he operates.

Di Stefano was fascinated by the man, having heard stories about him that seemed bizarre but were in fact true. And so he strived to present one such story on the silver screen. “As a writer, I’m fascinated by Escobar – as an artist and narrator, there’s a psychology that gives me a lot of possibility to play around,” Di Stefano continued. “But that’s completely different to saying I admire him as a human being. When you’re surrounded by kind people and you are evil, it’s very easy to have such achievements.”

The Colombian drug lord is brought to life on-screen by Benicio Del Toro. The Oscar-winning actor is indistinguishable from the real-life Pablo Escobar as recorded in history – from his mannerism to the way he looks. The gravity that Benicio creates around him in ‘Escobar: Paradise Lost’ not only pulls in the other characters, but the audience as well. When asked in an interview with ScreenSlam how he put so much life into the character, Del Toro said, “The bottom line is [that] if you just go from the script in a way, and you go from the research, and you put time and staying focused.”

The actor added, “You also work with the good filmmakers that understand what you need to do, or good actors that will help you, [and] allow you to explore things while you’re in front of the camera. So it’s a combination of many things, you know.” Pablo Escobar in the film explores the humanitarian side of the drug lord – everything from his efforts to rebuilding poor communities, building hospitals, developing schools, et cetera. To prepare for such a role, Del Toro prepared quite extensively for it.

“You read, you know? There’s been many documentaries about him [Escobar], his brother wrote a book, there’s other people [who have] written books about him. There’s a there’s footage of him, and also in retrospect, you can see all the devastation he left behind; how Colombia was brought to its knees, and how he took the press and killed many journalists because of what they were writing, and you know, really put fear into the streets and the life of every Colombian. And that way he managed to get what he wanted,” the actor told We Got This Covered about his sources while researching for the role.

Complementing and in complete opposition to Pablo in ‘Escobar: Paradise Lost’ is Josh Hutcherson’s Nick. Guileless and easily persuaded by Escobar’s charisma, Nick sees no fault in his criminal activities if it ultimately benefits the people of Colombia. But it is this blind faith that is tested in the end, with devastating results. Though a fictionalized story about a period of time in Pablo Escobar’s life, the film’s use of real-life instances that are known to the world ground it in reality. It makes ‘Escobar: Paradise Lost’ feel more like a biography. Its subtle storytelling is the film’s greatest strength, which uses the audience’s own perception of Pablo Escobar and how the story might play out to create the overall suspense and drama.

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