Miami’s drama is made for TV these days — ‘Hotel Scarface’ the latest to snag a series

Matchboxes with The Mutiny’s pirate logo could soon get national exposure as author Roben Farzad’s “Hotel Scarface” appears headed to TV as a limited series.
Matchboxes with The Mutiny’s pirate logo could soon get national exposure as author Roben Farzad’s “Hotel Scarface” appears headed to TV as a limited series. Rakontur/Berkley/Penguin Random House

Author Roben Farzad’s new account of Coconut Grove’s Mutiny Hotel and its unwitting role in Miami’s building boom of the ’80s thanks to the cocaine trade just begs for film treatment.

And now it appears that Farzad’s “Hotel Scarface: Where Cocaine Cowboys Partied and Plotted to Control Miami” (Berkley; $26) will follow January’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” as another Miami story to get the limited series TV treatment.

More: Read author Roben Farzad’s recollections of The Mutiny

“The former bouncer insists he would confiscate any camera that dared photo The Mutiny real-life back in its heyday,” Farzad said. [Mutiny founder Burton Goldberg] did allow professional photogs for staged scenes, sponsored poses, etc. Otherwise, precious little visual record of Mutiny reality — especially 1979-’83 — exists. So it will be a fun challenge to recreate that setting for the screen.”

In October, Farzad told the Miami Herald he’d been approached by filmmakers who were interested in optioning his wild tales of Cocaine Cowboys-era Miami inside the glamorous Mutiny, but he could not go into details at the time.

He still can’t say much as the deal is still in the developmental stages and a network and air date are far off. But Miami New Times reports that Stone Village Productions has picked up TV and film rights for “Hotel Scarface.”

The independent Stone Village Productions’ credits include the Netflix docu-series “Firechasers” and “Jane Got a Gun,” which starred Natalie Portman. Farzad would serve as executive producer along with Stone Village’s Scott Steindorff and Dylan Russell.

No word yet on whether the crew will receive a heartier welcome than Hollywood got in the early-1980s when Universal announced plans for a remake of its 1930s gangster flick, “Scarface,” but set in Miami. Lisa Plotkin
Roben Farzad, author of “Hotel Scarface: Where Cocaine Cowboys Partied and Plotted to Control Miami.” Lisa Plotkin Berkley/Penguin

In 1983, Miami politicians did not want director Brian DePalma’s “Scarface” remake — which used the Mariel boatlift as its backdrop — to film in the city, for fear it would further Miami’s then-image as the nation’s murder capital.

“They tried to get Burton to let them shoot scenes there — we know DePalma was there,” Farzad said. The original script mentioned The Mutiny Club but a simulacrum of the disco had to be staged in West Palm Beach instead.

“No one wanted that production there after the hell that was experienced with Mariel and the McDuffie riots and the murder rate in 1981, so they went to L.A.,” Farzad said. “The major f--- you to Miami was the filming of the most violent scene on Ocean Drive — the chainsaw.”

Due to the new book’s scope — “Hotel Scarface” contains a two-page, cast-of-characters listing of drug dealers, detectives and Mutiny denizens just to help readers keep track of all the players in its 352 pages — it’s not surprising that it would take more than a single two-hour theatrical movie to capture everything that reputedly went on inside the original building on South Bayshore Drive.

More: Read the obituary on Mutiny founder Burton Goldberg

“My mind goes there the instant I close my eyes every night,” said Farzad, host of NPR One’s “Full Disclosure” and a correspondent for “PBS NewsHour.”

And, at 41, the Iranian-born, Miami-raised North Miami Beach High honor student wasn’t even old enough to ever get inside The Mutiny’s doors during its heyday.

Mutiny front
Coconut Grove's Mutiny Hotel as it appeared in 1989, after its sale and conversion to condos. Miami Herald File

But his exhaustive, decades-long research told him plenty about the hotel where, on one side Miami’s business elite enjoyed food and drink and on the other end cocaine cowboys and the feds who were chasing them glared at one another. South American drug dealers conducted business there. Rock stars from the Eagles to “Miami Vice” cast members and politicos like Ted Kennedy partied inside the club that was likened to South Florida’s version of Studio 54.

From the book: For all the intense people watching at 2951 South Bayshore Drive, however, the true players at The Mutiny had nothing to do with Hollywood or Motown or the Beltway. They were Miami’s ruling drug lords. With bullets flying everywhere there at all hours of the day, the town was increasingly being called Dodge City. And so these guys were its ‘cocaine cowboys,’ the Latin masterminds of the era’s go-go wonder drug: yeyo, perico, toot, snow, white pony. Cocaine. And The Mutiny was their favorite saloon.

Book Fair Farzad
Overflow room at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus on Nov. 19, 2017, for author Roben Farzad and Rakontur director Billy Corben’s Miami Book Fair reading of Farzad’s “Hotel Scarface: Where Cocaine Cowboys Partied and Plotted to Control Miami.” Courtesy Roben Farzad

On Nov. 19, Farzad discussed “Hotel Scarface” with Rakontur director Billy Corben (“Cocaine Cowboys”) at an author’s event at the Miami Book Fair.

“Book Fair was such an overflow affair. Room stuffed at the doors, people leaning against walls, seated on the floor,” Farzad said. I let [my] Dad sit up with me. It was a dream come true.”

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen