By Darlene Donloe
In 1986, Federal Agent Robert “Bob” Mazur went undercover to infiltrate Pablo Escobar’s drug trafficking ring.
His incredible, harrowing story is told in The Infiltrator, out nationwide on July 13, 2016.
Bryant Cranston plays Mazur, who is posing as a money-laundering businessman named Bob Musella. Teamed with impulsive and streetwise fellow agent Emir Abreu (John Leguizamo) and rookie agent posing as his fiancé Kathy Ertz (Diane Kruger), Mazur befriends Escobar’s top lieutenant Roberto Alcaino (Benjamin Bratt).
Every moment that he was undercover, Mazur’s life was at risk. Still, he built a case that lead to indictments of 85 drug lords and the corrupt bankers who cleaned their dirty money, along with the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International, one of the largest money-laundering banks in the world.
I recently caught up with the director Brad Furman (BF), the writer and Furman’s actual mother, Ellen Brown Furman (EBF) and the real Robert Mazur (RM) to talk about the film.
DD: Brad, how much of what we see in the film really comes from Mazur’s life?
BF: It’s mentally impossible to take someone’s life and break it down. This is about Bob’s relationship with Alcaino. I think our film was driven by these relationships that he forged. It’s the core that moves us all. That was the jumping off point. You create these relationships and the ties that bind. There are more things that keep the plot going and keep it fresh for audiences who have seen everything.
DD: Talk about your casting process, Mr. Furman.
BF: I always feel the biggest leap forward is casting the right actors. Sometimes there are actors who can go that extra mile and go inside out. Sometimes I like hiring somebody who is younger and hungrier for the crew. You’ll get so much more out of them. Some are not as passionate.
DD: So you and Benjamin Bratt are friends.
BF: Benjamin Bratt, we’ve known each other for 20 years. I told him that Bryan [Cranston] is like a prizefighter. He’s like Mike Tyson. He’s going to eat you alive. Ben is a big preparer. Everybody is a different.
DD: Ms. Furman, how involved was the actual Bob Mazur in this process?
EBF: He was very involved. I could not have written it without Bob. He was so helpful. He was so meticulous. Any question you have, you can call him. He was available 24-7. He works really hard. He was committed to the film
DD: There are a number of films with a similar story – even on television. How do you make your film different?
BF: The challenge is – you just can’t have everything. We looked at 30-50 scripts. What made my film feel fresh was the material. I’m not saying this because the writer is my mom. It was very arduous for her. She added an evolution, a process. I kept explaining to Bob that it’s going to change when we shoot and edit. The foundation is really dedicated to this. They aren’t going to let a mature woman write a script. I think that’s because the characters are unique.
DD: What was your writing process? What was real in the film and what was artistic license?
EBF: I think as a writer you read and write and get an artistic impression. For that I have to use my artistic expression as a writer. That’s what I tried to do. It’s not what is real or isn’t real. Bob went undercover with a little tape recorder with the head of the cartel. He was a family man with two little children. I wrote the script and still don’t understand how anyone did that.
DD: How did you get started writing the script?
EBF: You start at a certain place. You jump off from the truth. Sometimes you’re forced to move the scene and pull some things. Sometimes an actor comes on board like Benjamin. He did a close portrayal. Some actors have fresh takes and ideas. As a filmmaker you look at all of those things.
DD: Mr. Furman is there one film that you go back to and find hidden layers?
BF: It’s crazy to even say my name in the same sentence as Sidney Lumet. His work is inspiring to me. I mean Dog Day Afternoon. I believe in these characters. With Lumet, he always made sure the city was another character. It’s an incredible movie.
DD: Mr. Mazur you wrote a book chronicling your story. Is there any fear of reprisal?
RM: It’s always something you need to take into consideration. In my view, I’m a public servant. You pay my salary. You need to know this story. I wanted to share the story. I knew the driver [Brad Furman] was in the driver’s seat. It’s an honor and privilege to have Bryan Cranston play you in a film. He’s so many layers of talent. He’s a pleasure to work with. He spent a lot time with me and my family.
DD: Mr. Furman, talk about the making of this film.
BF: This movie was tough. It’s a bit of a blur. It’s memorable for me. How Bob didn’t feel he had made anything but a dent? I said maybe this will open up a new level of awareness. There were so many things politically that we couldn’t get in the movie. I’m too close to the movie.
The Infiltrator (Broad Green Pictures), directed by Brad Furman, stars Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, Diane Kruger, Benjamin Bratt, Yul Vazquez, Amy Ryan, Joseph Gilgun, Saïd Taghmaoui and Olympia Dukakis.
On The DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), The Infiltrator gets an E (excellent).