If there’s one thing that moviegoers love even more than a hero, it’s a villain. Both in film and TV, the crime genre is peppered with protagonists who are on the wrong side of the law but still manage to garner sympathy from the audience, including popular examples like Tony Soprano, Don Vito Corleone and Tony Montana.
While the organized crime business in North and South America has largely been male-dominated, there are a few noteworthy female gangsters. One of the most notorious was Griselda Blanco (who went by many nicknames including the Cocaine Godmother, the Black Widow and La Madrina), a Colombian drug runner who was a major figure in the Miami-based drug trade during the 1970s and and 1980s.
Blanco was featured in the documentaries Cocaine Cowboys and Cocaine Cowboys II, and now her life story is set to be dramatized in The Godmother, a new biopic from Norwegian director Eva Sørhaug (90 Minutes). Deadline reports that Catherine Zeta-Jones (RED 2) has been cast in the lead role of the film, which is being produced by Daniela Cretu under her First Born Films banner and executive produced by Goodfellas screenwriter, Nicholas Pileggi.
Blanco was a high-ranking member of the Medellín Cartel and she ran sizeable cocaine businesses in Miami and New York during her career, which earned her a significant amount of prison time and came to an ultimate end in 2012 when she was killed in a drive-by motorcycle assassination.
The casting has already triggered some backlash from people who aren’t too happy that a biopic about a famous Colombian cocaine queen will be led by a Welsh actress, especially in light of a recent study from the University of California, which found that Hispanic actresses have very few opportunities for speaking roles in movies, let alone lead roles, and are more likely than actresses of any other ethnicity to be presented as partially or fully naked onscreen.
Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time that Zeta-Jones has played a role of this nature. One of the films that initially launched her career as a Hollywood star was The Mask of Zorro, in which she played Elena Montero, daughter of the original Zorro. She also played the wife of a Mexican drug lord in Steven Soderbergh’s 2000 crime drama Traffic.
We’ll bring you more updates on The Godmother as development continues.