A heart-stopping account of an ordinary man doing extraordinary things, set amidst the lavish excesses of the 1980s.
The Infiltrator is the thrilling true-life story of Special Agent Robert ‘Bob’ Mazur, responsible for bringing down the drug cartels and their bankers alike, in one of history’s most audacious stings.
Appearances can be deceptive. Behind the unassuming gaze of Robert ‘Bob’ Mazur, a modest family man, hides the deadly secret and thrilling true-life story of a fearless undercover agent who is responsible for bringing down the globe’s largest drug cartels and their bankers alike, in one of history’s most audacious stings.
Amidst the lavish excess of the 1980s, Robert Musella became a pivotal player for drug lords cleaning their dirty cash. He traded on mob connections, to become the confidant to scores of the international underworld and the bankers who enabled them.
However, Robert Musella was, in fact, the undercover persona of Special Agent Robert Mazur: a US customs official who went further than any before him. Laying his life on the line, he infiltrated the globe’s largest cartels and discovered just how deep into society their influence extended. Welcomed into an inner-circle of violence and corruption, Mazur found himself in the tight embrace of those he had promised to take down.
Based on the true story of a fearless undercover agent, The Infiltrator is a heart-stopping account of one of history’s most elaborate stings. The operation reeled in key players in a chain stretching all the way to Escobar. Their arrests would lead to the collapse of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International and shake the black economy to its core.
This incredible story is now explored on the big screen in The Infiltrator by acclaimed American filmmaker Brad Furman (The Lincoln Lawyer), who directs from a screenplay written by his mother Ellen Brown Furman, based on Bob Mazur’s autobiography of the same name.
Welcomed into an inner-circle of violence and corruption, Mazur found himself in the tight embrace of those he had promised to take down.
This quietly methodical ex-U.S. Customs Agent and stable family man, seemingly as strait-laced as they come, is responsible for the convictions of over eighty individuals, having conducted one of the most successful undercover operations in U.S. law enforcement history. Over two long years, he would risk all he had to transform himself day after day into fabled international money launderer, Bob Musella. Armed with little more than a fake name and a recording briefcase, he infiltrated the heart of the infamous Medellín Cartel and the global financial institutions that enabled it, incriminating dozens in the process.
The Infiltrator is his story: a heart-stopping account of an ordinary man doing extraordinary things, set amidst the lavish excesses of the 1980s.
Bob had “heard for years, people telling [him] this was a special story and one [he] ought to seriously think about writing up as a book.” But it wasn’t until he found work as an advisor on a Hollywood film project, that he began putting the idea into motion.
“The director on the project said ‘I’d really like to do a movie about your life. But you need a book first. Once you do a book, then we have a palette to work from and to potentially do a movie.’ As a result, I started the book and ultimately did pull it all together.”
The final product consisted of two dramatic years condensed into the 350 nerve-shredding pages of the 2009 best-seller The Infiltrator: Undercover in the World of Drug Barons and Dirty Banks. And, as predicted, his story soon caught the attention of the film industry.
British producer Miriam Segal, on the hunt for intelligent, universally relevant projects for Good Films, was handed a copy of the book by the agent of director Brad Furman, and given the simple instruction to “just read it”.
Furman had recently served mainstream notice of his talent with The Lincoln Lawyer, based on the novel of another Tampa author, Michael Connelly, and had acquired a shopping deal on the Mazur project. After reading the book, and enjoying Furman’s critically-acclaimed film on a transatlantic flight, Segal immediately sensed its potential. She arranged a call with the young director, and emerged four hours later fully convinced. “I talked it through with Brad, and really liked what he had to say about what he wanted to do with it.”
With the wheels now in motion, the pair worked alongside casting director Gail Stevens on assembling their cast, calling on the services of old Furman favourites and new names.
The main priority was finding the right Bob, and Furman knew from his experiences on The Lincoln Lawyer, that Bryan Cranston was the man for the job. Hot on the heels of his Emmy and Golden Globe-winning turn in Breaking Bad, Cranston was in the midst of picking up a Tony for his performance as Lyndon B. Johnson on Broadway and on the lookout for his next major leading role when he was approached. “He was top of everyone’s list. It was perfect timing” says Segal.
Cranston was only too happy to reignite the partnership: “Brad is an incredibly passionate director. And an incredibly honest one… I trust him. And that, I think, is the biggest thing. You have to go into a relationship like that, trusting your director – that he or she won’t move on to the next scene until they feel they have it, and it works, and that they were able to get the best performance out of you. That’s a good thing for an actor.”
John Leguizamo had starred in Furman’s feature film debut The Take and jumped at the chance to reunite with director in the plum role of Bob’s fast-talking partner-in-crime Emir Abreu: “He’s after the same thing I am, and kind of the same thing Bob and Emir are: adrenaline chasing. Let’s create an experience on film that can’t be had in life.”
The Take and Runner Runner alumnus Yul Vazquez was also recruited, a fan of Furman for years.
“I’ve known Brad since before he even made a film. He was working behind the scenes when he told me, ‘I’m a filmmaker. We’ll make a film one day.’ True to his word, two years later, I’m away with my wife on a trip in the Caribbean and my phone rings… ‘It’s Brad…I’m doing a movie and I want you to be in it!’ I didn’t even know what it was about, I didn’t even care. People love that dude, people will do anything for him.”
Benjamin Bratt tells a similar story of his director’s ambition: “I’ve known Brad for a long, long time, really since he was a kid. Nineteen years old. And I remember when he told me he wanted to be a filmmaker, and I thought, ‘yeah, that would be nice’. But here he is now, some 20 years later. And I’m not only proud of him, I’m incredibly impressed by him. He’s intelligent, he has a true understanding of the story”.
New converts were brought on board too. Inglourious Basterds star Diane Kruger signed on for the key role of Kathy Ertz, having already been impressed by The Lincoln Lawyer. She remembers: “I wanted to meet Brad. We had a really lovely lunch and he kind of gave me carte blanche. It was just a really fun, creative process.” Rising English actor Joseph Gilgun had to fight hard for the part of towering heavy Dominic, winning Furman over, despite his comparatively slight frame. He recounts a moment in the audition process, when Furman stared him dead in the eye and asked “’Are you hungry?’ I said ‘I’m starving. Give me the job.’ And he did. He trusted me with it.”
The final major piece of the puzzle was Academy Award-nominee Amy Ryan, a late addition to the cast, fresh off Birdman.
Segal admits that Bonni Tischler, one of the script’s most enigmatic figures, was vital to cast correctly, and was hugely excited to secure Ryan to take on “the strong ballsy character”. Ryan was quick to add her praise for Furman: “Brad is a very passionate, loving director. He never loses sight of the fact that everyone is fighting to achieve the same thing. He wanted to make it a family affair”.
This desire even stretched to his choice of screenwriter, Ellen Brown Furman, Brad’s mother.
She carefully sculpted the screenplay, working alongside her son and the production team over a number of years, to help bring the project to life. The potentially combustible nature of the mother-son duo secured the admiration of the cast and crew.
Cranston admits: “I haven’t met anyone on our crew, who’s said ‘Yeah I could do that. That could work out!’” Amy Ryan took it as a good sign, laughing: “He must be a good boy!” But it’s production designer, the three-time Academy Award®-nominee Crispian Sallis who perhaps sums up the general mood best: “When he told me that his mum had written the script, I actually leapt off the sofa, I was so happy. I thought it was one of the most delightful things I’ve ever heard of in screenwriting…”
The script won Mazur’s seal of approval too. “She and everyone involved in this process have been respectful of the story, and interested in the story. And I think that the fact that they – yes I know that they have to fictionalize things – but the fact they stayed fairly well within the guts of the story makes me feel really good about it.”
For Bob, the film is an incredible chance to spread the word about the financial corruption, drug cartels, and transnational criminal organizations that he dedicated so many of his years to tackling. But it isn’t a lecture, it’s two years of painstaking, life-threatening undercover work, distilled into two breathless hours.
“This is a film based on a true story, and not an attempt to make a film of the true story. It needs to be very entertaining and there are a lot of very wonderfully talented people involved in this movie, who are making it very entertaining.” Though he concedes, with typical understatement: “But they would not have been on my advisory board for what to do on an undercover situation!”