Leguizamo was born in Colombia and campaigned heavily for the role. Deadline reports that after an initial rejection, he spent up to $15,000 on a fat suit and makeup in order to demonstrate how he would look as Escobar.
Leguizamo and Furman filmed a screen test and sent it to producer/financier Scott Steindorff, who denied Leguizamo the part for a second time. Leguizamo and Furman urged Steindorff to send the test to Relativity execs, without disclosing the identity of the actor.
Deadline.com reports that the screen test had a split-screen comparison between Leguizamo and the real-life Escobar. Relativity’s Tucker Tooley and Ryan Kavanaugh asked who the actor was, and Leguizamo was hired.