Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Paramount has set Oscar-winning The Departed scribe William Monahan to rewrite American Desperado, the film that is being shaped as a star vehicle for Mark Wahlberg. The film, based on the book American Desperado: My Life As A Cocaine Cowboy, focuses on the criminal exploits of Jon Roberts, who made a fortune smuggling cocaine into the U.S. for the Medellin Cartel. Roberts wrote the book with Generation Kill author Evan Wright, the latter of whom wrote the most recent draft of the script. Monahan will go back to the book for his script. Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson are producing with Film 44′s Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey. Leverage’s Michael Garnett has been overseeing the project.

The exploits of Roberts and Mickey Munday were first chronicled in the 2006 Billy Corben documentary Cocaine Cowboys, which is in the process of being developed at HBO as a series that’s exec produced by Michael Bay and Jerry Bruckheimer.

Wahlberg has been developing the film since 2008 with the intention to play Roberts, who died of cancer last December. After returning from Vietnam, Roberts headed to Miami and fell in with the Medellin drug cartel when it was moving billions of dollars of blow into the U.S. That led to excess and danger right out of the series Miami Vice, until he was caught by the DEA. Berg originally intended to direct the film but is only attached as producer. He and Wahlberg just shot Lone Survivor and they’ll figure it out when they get the script from Monahan, who worked with Wahlberg on The Departed.

Monahan’s recent script work includes The Gambler; Sin City: A Dame To Kill For; and he was just set to script the remake of Sympathy For Lady Vengeance that will star Charlize Theron. He’s also booked to direct his script Mojave, with Oscar Isaac and Jason Clarke starring. WME reps Monahan.