Jake Gyllenhaal to Star in Biopic of Miami Cocaine King, Max Mermelstein

Max Mermelstein
Max Mermelstein
Courtesy of Brett Tabor

Jake Gyllenhaal is set to star in the biopic The Man Who Made It Snow, the tale of Max Mermelstein, a notorious 1980s drug smuggler who pioneered the cocaine pipeline from Medellín to Miami before eventually turning rat and tearing it all down. At the time, Mermelstein was the only American who was ever admitted to the inner circle of Pablo Escobar's Colombian cocaine cartel.

Mermelstein was sentenced to only two years and 21 days in jail even though it's estimated he smuggled upward of 56 tons of cocaine, worth $12.5 billion, into the United States. He received a light sentence because he was a valuable asset to the U.S. government, providing insight into the inner workings of the international narcotics network the Medellín cartel.

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Mermlestein decided to flip on his Colombian drug-trade partners after his 1985 arrest while driving in Davie. After the cartel refused to post his million-dollar bail, he was forced to choose either a lengthy jail sentence that protected his ex-partners or become one of the most influential informants in the history of the DEA. He chose to flip and take the lighter jail sentence.

The idea for a movie was born in part thanks to filmmaker/screenwriter Brett Tabor, a man whose obsession with Mermelstein was chronicled by New Times in 2010. Tabor came across Mermelstein's story in Billy Corben's film Cocaine Cowboys.

Tabor went to great lengths to find a man who had virtually disappeared off the face of the Earth. By then, Mermelstein and his family were hidden away in a witness protection program. Tabor eventually tracked him down and persuaded Mermelstein to sign over the film rights to his best-selling autobiography just months before he died of lung cancer.

Gyllenhaal will reunite with Antoine Fuqua, who is slated to direct. The Man Who Made It Snow is scheduled to begin production later this year.

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