Rakontur's Billy Corben on New Cocaine Cowboys HBO Series

Jacek Gancarz.jpg
Jacek Gancarz
Corben and Spellman on HBO.
When Cultist chatted with Cocaine Cowboy Director Billy Corben about an unofficial Hollywood remake of his Miami documentary, he was excited at the prospect even though his Miami studio Rakontur has nothing to do with that project. So you can imagine how psyched he was to talk about the HBO series that he and Rakontur partner Alfred Spellman are involved in-- titled, you guessed it, Cocaine Cowboys.

With industry mega-weights Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay involved in that project, who wouldn't be? Corben sees the series combining the best elements of other great HBO shows. "It will have the best of the Sopranos, The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, in one show." That's not all bluster, either, as he explains what he means. 

Corben says Rakontur had lunch with Bruckheimer last week (it's not name dropping when you actually have projects in the works) and all parties agreed to get an additional writer on board to help with the scripts. Story wise the show will present families and warring factions of crime syndicates like the Sopranos did. "Like in The Wire, the city will also play a character in the show," he explains. "It will paint a portrait of Miami than many haven't seen." And finally, like Boardwalk Empire, Cocaine Cowboys the series will be a period piece depicting the Magic City in the 1980s. If all goes as planned, Cocaine Cowboys should become part of the HBO brand as much as the three shows mentioned. "Notice how I didn't say anything about Sex and The City." We did. And we dig that.

As for a timeline on when the series will start production and actually hit the air, Corben says he's learned to be patient. He wouldn't give any dates, but did say he was glad nothing was being rushed. "This isn't a mad dash to get the pilot on the air. We've gotten it right so far," he says. Rakontur originally signed an option agreement with Bruckheimer and Warner Bros. Television about three years ago, a deal Corben says has been renewed multiple times as they develop the series. Warner Bros. took the project over to HBO, both of which are Time Warner Inc. entities.

The University of Miami graduate is still thrilled by how far Rakontur's low budget documentary has come in the past decade. "It's pretty fucking cool. Surreal. Everybody wants to do it now, but when we first tried to get financing for the project nobody in the industry understood the concept." Even though he says most everybody was willing to throw money at another Italian mafia movie, Corben says insiders couldn't wrap their heads around a Miami-based storyline. "They would say: 'So it's like Blow?' No. 'Like Scarface?' No. Now everybody wants to do it."

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