Griselda Blanco is certainly one of the darkest roles Jennifer Lopez has ever played

By Alex Heigl
Updated August 11, 2016 05:25 PM

Jennifer Lopez is set to take on what could be the most demanding role of her career for HBO Films’ new project about “The Cocaine Godmother,” Griselda Blanco.

“I’ve been fascinated by the life of this corrupt and complicated woman for many years,” Lopez said in a statement. “Complicated,” though, barely begins to describe Blanco. Below, a quick primer on the famous drug lord.

1. Blanco was the quintessential rags-to-riches kingpin
Blanco grew up in the slums of Cartagena, Colombia, though she considered Medellén her hometown – she moved there with her mother at the age of 3. She was born in 1943 and reportedly got her start in crime as a pickpocket and prostitute as a pre-teen, though she ascended the ranks rather quickly, allegedly making her first kill at the age of 11 as part of a kidnapping. By the mid-1970s, her organization was moving 300 kilos of cocaine a month, worth about $80 million.

2. She was also known as ‘The Black Widow’
Generally, things didn’t turn out well for Blanco’s paramours. She supposedly murdered her first lover as a teenager and had her first husband, Carlos Trujillo, killed a few years after divorcing him. She shot her second husband, Alberto Bravo – who was instrumental as a partner in her rise to power – herself, in the parking lot of a Bogoté nightclub. Another husband, Dario Sepulveda, was killed in 1983. (Some sources ID Sepulveda as Blanco’s second husband and Bravo as her first.)

3. Her life was tailor-made for a movie
The details of Blanco’s life veer into the cartoonish at some points, and rumor can be difficult to separate from fact. Some of the more oft-repeated details: She named her youngest song Michael Corleone, after the character from the Godfather series; she was addicted to “bazooka,” a form of smokeable, unrefined cocaine; she would frequently have orgies with both sexes and force men and women to have sex at gunpoint; and part of her smuggling operation involved custom-made lingerie with special packets designed to hold cocaine. Among her most cherished possessions were reportedly an emerald-and-gold embellished MAC 10 machine pistol, a set of pearls (or, variously, a ring) that formerly belonged to former First Lady of Argentina Eva Perén and last but not least, a tea set once used by Queen Elizabeth, smuggled out of Buckingham Palace.

Related: Inside Jennifer Lopez’s Lavish 47th Birthday Bash!

4. She’s estimated to have been responsible for more than 200 murders
Though Blanco was estimated to be behind 3,400 lbs. of cocaine smuggling a month and countless murders (40-50 on the conservative end and more than 200 on the high end), she was only convicted of three murders. She served 13 years in federal custody over drug charges and was then remanded to Florida authorities, but when it was revealed that the prosecution’s chief witness – Jorge Ayala, one of Blanco’s hitmen – had had phone sex with secretaries from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office, the resulting scandal forced a veteran prosecutor to resign, the case fell apart and Blanco eventually cut a plea deal in 1998.

5. She died pretty much as you’d expect her to
Blanco was deported back to Colombia in 2004. In 2012, she was gunned down in Medellén, outside a butcher shop, by an assassin riding a motorcycle. Coincidentally, Blanco was credited with introducing the idea of the “motorcycle assassin” as a tool of cartel violence. “This is classic live-by-the-sword, die-by-the-sword,” filmmaker Billy Corben, whose two documentaries about the cocaine epidemic of the 1970s and ’80s, Cocaine Cowboys, partially focused on Blanco’s reign, told the Miami Herald. “Or in this case, live-by-the-motorcycle-assassin, die-by-the-motorcycle assassin.”