We caught up with Director Brad Furman who discussed his new film “The Infiltrator,” which hits theaters this Wednesday.
Operation C-Chase was one of the most successful undercover operations in history. Was it difficult capturing the accuracy and historical context of the original operation?
I believe the truth is that ultimately much more interesting than the fiction, but it’s impossible to take a man’s life, a particular section of years of a man’s life that’s ultimately been amalgamated into 300 or however many pages the book is and move that into a 120 page screenplay you automatically end up amalgamating stories and characters and through lines, it’s an impossibility not to … So we tried – my way in and my way out was to keep Bob as close to me as possible through the process, have him vet everything, go through everything with him top to bottom and not have anything on the page or ultimately the screen that Bob wasn’t comfortable with. And he has to trust me and I have to trust him and that was how we tried to do this. We had our screening/early premiere; I don’t know what you would call it, not the international premiere, in Tampa Bay last night and they honored a lot of the undercover agents and policemen involved in the case and everyone really felt we captured the core of the essence of what this story is and that ultimately was always my goal. It’s not a documentary but if you can get in the core and the essence of it, that’s a win. So I hope at least on their end of the fence we won and we’ll see on their side of the street who won and we’ll see what happens when it reaches audiences.
How were discussions with Robert Mazur concerning the film? Was anything changed from what had originally happened?
There’s a natural amalgamation, so if Bob tells me a story and there’s 10 characters in the story or 10 people, it’s not really plausible in that particular storyline when in the movie we can have 10. So Ebreu and Armbrecht were amalgamated into one and I kept most of the traits of Armbrecht and as a result I erased Ebreu but took elements of Ebreu and planted them into Armbrecht. Once you start that type of amalgamation that starts to shift the paradigm of you moving into the world of fiction. It’s the same thing with the storyline, there’s certain elements of storyline where Bob had told me countless stories where he had close calls and things that happened. That ultimately evolved into what was the dinner scene or the anniversary scene. There’s one through line in particular of some fictionalization that I’ll sort of leave as the red herring for the movie that I play with because I thought in telling the story of the U.S. drug trade and Pablo Escobar you couldn’t tell the story without this character and that’s something I felt very strongly about so as a result of that I weaved that in and I did it in a way I didn’t feel infringed on Bob’s story, that I felt made a better movie and that was my job. I don’t believe I would be here today talking to you if the movie is not working, it seems to be working for people they seem interested to talk about it because it’s working and that’s something I take a lot of pride in so it’s a real challenge, how do you honor the truth of the character and the truth of the story, but in the same breath make the best movie possible in a world where there’s so much media slammed at everyone. Social media, narrative media, it’s just everywhere. How do you make your piece of work stand out?
The depictions of real-world matters, such as the realism concerning drug heists was very exciting: from the hit-and-run involving Mazur to the fixed and suspenseful marriage at the end. But, in what ways did you attempt to capture the mood and tension of these scenes?
In an effort to capture the mood and tension you base things off reality, you tie yourself to the hip of the life rights guy. You honor his story; you keep him abreast of every decision you’re making. To the best of your ability you work like a partnership and team and then you speak as a director and filmmaker through the artistry of the medium, how you shoot things, how you move the camera, how you use the music, how you sound design, how you cast the movie, and it’s this massive layer upon layer upon layer that builds this fabric that’s woven together and I think that’s the presentation piece that you sit back and people watch the movie and they have no idea the thousands upon thousands of layers, of pieces to the puzzle and decisions that went into effecting the emotion and the mood and the centerpiece of Bob’s story.
You think Pablo Escobar would’ve liked your film?
I think Pablo is a guy who was a real man of the people. I think he was a guy who really appreciated art, so I think he would have had a lot of fun with it. Pablo Escobar is portrayed as the king in this movie so I don’t think he would have minded that.
How did it feel directing the film from beginning to end? What is the overall message you would like viewers to acquire from watching The Infiltrator?
I think it’s so many messages you can take from this movie that ultimately if I created a film that made you think, a film that moves you emotionally and thought provocative than that was a win. So for me I could sit and tell you ultimately certain messages I hope the people get out of it but in the end day if you were moved emotionally and it gets you thinking then that’s a win.
Was it hard condensing both the autobiography and five years worth of investigation of the case into this 2 and a half hour film?
It was tremendously challenging, but I was up to the challenge. I’ve never been afraid of hard work, I had a great team with me and I had a great partner in Bob and my mother and Don Sikorski and Miriam Segal, Jess Fuerst and Brian Cranston and Leguizamo and all the actors. We put our nose to the grindstone and we knew we had challenges and David Rosenbloom, who is our wonderful editor, last editor in, did a brilliant job of helping me keep my eye on the ball of what the story we wanted to tell was.
To what extent do you believe the money-laundering and drug-shipping would’ve gone if Mazur didn’t conduct this operation?
Unfortunately I think our reality as we have it is… I think Bob and I both believe that his work although amazing is really just a small dent that’s barely recognized. Hopefully this movie will open up the doors to have people thoughtfully provoked, intellectually provoked, to challenge what we’re told and to look beyond just accepting things at face value. I don’t believe that money laundering today and the supposed drug war, as I say, has improved very much since that time. The gross national product of our country is constantly being promoted and inflated based off drugs coming into this country and the sale of drugs and I think Bob’s work scratches the surface unfortunately and it shouldn’t have, but this is the realities of a much bigger political world
What was your favorite scene overall in the movie?
I don’t necessarily have one, for me it’s you know like looking at your baby saying what part of the body on the baby do you like the best. I can’t imagine anybody’s ever asked or answered that question. For me it’s the whole movie. I definitively proud of this scene in particular with Leguizamo, Juan Cely, Rubén just as far as the challenges we had and the performances, but as I hear my self saying that, I also feel that I can say that about every scene in the movie. So I regretfully tell you it’s like asking somebody who’s baby what’s the best features.