Armie Hammer, an actor who owns a bakery in Texas, has secured the life rights for Edgar Valdez-Villarreal, a former high-school football star from Texas who became a high-ranking member of the Mexican Beltrán-Leyva Cartel, BuzzFeed reports.
Valdez, who calls himself “La Barbie,” plead guilty to drug trafficking and money laundering charges in Atlanta this month. Arrested in 2010, he was the subject of a 2011 Rolling Stone story—oh hey!—to which Legendary Studios owns the rights.
“Owning La Barbie’s life rights was the most important thing to us,” the actor told BuzzFeed News. “We knew that having direct access to him meant access to stories that were never intended to see the light of day.”
Hammer’s quest to obtain the rights to tell La Barbie’s life story started in 2012 when the Lone Ranger star himself was locked up in Sierra Blanca, Texas, after he was caught at a border checkpoint with three medicinal marijuana cookies and a brownie (the case was later dismissed). His wife, journalist Elizabeth Chambers-Hammer, then called the top lawyer in El Paso, who also just happened to represent La Barbie — [Kent] Schaffer.
“Elizabeth contacted me when Armie was still in jail over a little marijuana charge and she talked to me for the first 20 minutes about getting life rights to Edgar’s story, and then she said, ‘By the way, my husband is in jail. Can you get him out?’” he said.
After three years of meetings with family members and letter writing, a deal was struck. “It was very serendipitous that our paths would cross with Edgar,” Hammer said, “but once we heard more, we knew this was something we had to jump on.” Serendipitous is certainly one word for it. Unbelievable might be another.
Barbie believed in vengeance, and in taking care of his enemies. Over his 15 years in the drug trade, he had managed to alienate the leaders of almost every major cartel in Mexico: the Zetas, the Gulf cartel, even the Sinaloa and Beltrán-Leyva cartels he worked for. “Barbie had enemies galore,” says George Grayson, a Mexico scholar at the College of William & Mary and the author of Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State. “He could have set the Guinness World Record for people who wanted to kill him.” Yet Barbie remained chillingly detached, unable to see the connection between his personal savagery and the way his own family and friends came to fear him. “Even with all the bad things he’s done, Barbie always thought the world looked on him kindly,” says a law-enforcement source familiar with Barbie. “He’s just one of those blithe-living guys who thinks his life is charmed.”
“There is something about him that is compassionate, which I know is crazy to say about a drug lord,” Chambers-Hammer said.