Robert Mazur says he wants people who read his book and see the movie “The Infiltrator” that’s based on it, to be inspired while they’re entertained.
“The film is about people who want to be part of making a difference,” Mazur says. “There is this large body of public servants who care about our lifestyle. Those people deserve to be recognized by the public.”
Mazur’s book, “The Infiltrator: My Secret Life Inside the Dirty Banks Behind Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel,” tells the story of the 1980s operation that cut deep into the drug business. It involved some 250 people – too complicated to easily boil into the constraints of a movie such as the one premiering this week starring Bryan Cranston.
“The Infiltrator” tracks Mazur and a small cadre of agents who were closest to him while he went undercover as an expert in money laundering. Operation C-Chase is one of the most successful undercover operations in U.S. law enforcement history, resulting in the arrest of more than 80 people.
Going from undercover agent to author started when Mazur was a consultant on the 2006 feature film “Miami Vice.” Director Michael Mann pushed Mazur to write a book telling his story.
I don’t need a film to remind me of what happened, because I lived it.
Mazur’s book, published in 2009, was brought to the attention of director Brad Furman (“The Lincoln Lawyer”) by a close friend from college. Furman was so interested in the story that within a couple of years the production was off the ground.
The first thing Furman did was make sure to get Mazur’s input.
“We were tied at the hip,” Furman says. “It was absolutely critical because this is not my world. My childhood was playing basketball and then playing basketball in college.
“I needed Bob to tell me the story of an undercover agent.”
Mazur says he considers Furman to be a “talented person and friend” who repaid his trust by treating his story with respect. Mazur recalls talking a lot with Furman about the chemistry between the characters and what would have happened in certain situations. Mazur says he was willing to help knowing that the real world and a movie are like “apples and oranges” because certain things had to be fictionalized to keep the movie moving.
The job of transforming Mazur’s book into a screenplay went to the director’s mother, Ellen Brown Furman.
“My mother is like me but a bit more obstinate, a little less open to changes. I would just have to tell her, ‘Mom, this has to change because it doesn’t translate to film.’ So, we made it work,” Furman says.
There was no compromising in the casting. Furman says Cranston won his respect on “The Lincoln Lawyer” and he knew the actor would have the kind of leadership needed to tell the complicated story of drugs, corruption and massive amounts of money.
By leadership, the director means the ability to help the audience lose themselves in the film. That comes through in the stories of friendships that begin to form between the agents and some of the dealers.
“The only way to look at this story is through the humanity,” Furman says. “It’s crucial in embarking on this kind of endeavor to create that landscape.”
This is an opportunity to shine a light on that spirit that exists.
Robert Mazur, on what he likes about ‘The Infiltrator’
That truth was an absolute for Mazur. He says he wants to make sure that the public never forgets that the drug trade is only getting worse.
As deadly as the drug and weapons are, Mazur sees an even bigger threat.
“The most deadly product they export is corruption,” Mazur says. “They have a bankroll that beats the bankrolls of many countries.
“I hope some people can see in this movie that we can’t put a dent in the problem without global collaboration. We are facing a highly complex network.”
Mazur says he hopes audiences also learn to admire law enforcement. “I worked for the public,” he says. “That means to really truly know it’s a privilege to carry that badge. There are so many negative stories. This is an opportunity to shine a light on that spirit that exists.”