Audio After The Jump
Many people were surprised when it was announced that Nick Cannon would be playing the role of Freeway Ricky Ross in an upcoming biopic. In a new interview with MTV, Ross explains that he had other well known actors in mind before ultimately settling on Cannon.
"I spoke to Will Smith about the role. I had a couple meetings with Jamie Foxx about it. Larenz Tate, I was really serious about Larenz," he said. "I spoke to Don Cheadle a couple of times about it. Columbus Short, I really, really liked Columbus Short for the role, but at the end of the day Nick's willing to help me build the project. He's willing to get in the trenches and roll up his sleeves and fight because I still wanna have some control."
Ross' real life story is one that Hollywood screenwriters couldn't dream of penning if they tried.
In the early 1980's, the 53-year old Ross, real name Ricky Donnell Ross, ran a multi-million dollar drug empire from Los Angeles that supplied cocaine to New York, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, St. Louis, New Orleans, Baltimore, Seattle, Cleveland, Kansas City, Oklahoma,, North Carolina, South Carolina, Cincinnati and Kansas City.
During his time as a cocaine dealer Ross reportedly made $600 million.
Ross was ultimately betrayed and set up by his supplier Oscar Danilo Blandon of Nicaragua. Blandon worked with the CIA to bring Ross down.
In 1996 journalist Gary Webb wrote a series of articles for the San Jose Mercury News titled the "Dark Alliance." Through his investigation Webb uncovered a link between Blandon and the CIA-backed Nicaraguan Contras. Webb alleged that the CIA knew about the large shipments of cocaine to the U.S. and Ross, and that the proceeds helped fund the Contras.
"Basically, Gary’s story was proven true. They admitted they knew these guys were selling drugs. And I don’t believe Gary ever said in his report that the CIA was the actual perpetrators of the crime. But if you go with the conspiracy theory that the government uses to convict, the evidence that they had, you could convict on that evidence. A jury could find [the CIA] guilty," Ross told The Pasadena Weekly in April 2010
The same year that Webb wrote his story Ross was sentenced to life in prison. His sentence was reduced to 20 years after a federal court appeal. It was later reduced even further for good behavior. He was released from prison in September 2009 after serving 14 years.
Ross' biopic is being penned by famed actor/director/screenwriter Nick Cassavetes ("Blow" and "Alpha Dog"). According to MTV, It will focus on Ross' early years, between the ages of 17-25, which played a part in the 32-year old Cannon getting the role over older actors like Foxx, Smith and Tate.
"I been watching Nick since like '96 when I was in custody in San Diego and that was one of the times when I was at my most tuneless time with the world, because I was incarcerated and I also had a life sentence," Ross told MTV. "He just reminds me of myself, just he took a different turn, he went to entertainment and I went to the streets."