Marbella vice

Marbella vice

June 12, 2024


Following their success with La Unidad (The Unit), Dani de la Torre and Alberto Marini take DQ inside their new Spanish crime drama Marbella, which dramatises a true story set in the murky underworld of the titular town – a popular tourist spot that has also been described as the UN of organised crime.

In La Unidad (The Unit), Alberto Marini and Dani de la Torre created a series that explored the inner workings of an elite Spanish National Police unit in its fight against jihadist terrorism.

Running for two seasons, the first of which debuted on Movistar Plus+ in 2020, it follows Commissioner Carla Torres (Nathalie Poza) and her team as they face a race against time to dismantle new threats while also resolving conflicts in their personal lives. A third season, 2023’s La Unidad: Kabul, then sees the action switch to Afghanistan where members of the unit try to uncover details about a potential terrorist attack in Europe.

Now, with their new series, Marini and De la Torre lift the lid on the world of organised crime in a town best known as a tourist destination for party-loving holidaymakers on Spain’s Costa del Sol.

Marbella, which debuted on Movistar Plus+ on May 30, centres on lawyer César (Hugo Silva), who must navigate a complex network of organisations mixing multiple nationalities, traditional and cyber crime, and old-school crime bosses and young upstarts.

Marini and De la Torre are creative directors on the six-part drama, while Marini wrote the scripts and De la Torre directs with Oskar Santos. The show is produced by Buendía Estudios Canarias and distributed by Movistar Plus+ International.

Here, Marini and De la Torre put their football allegiances to one side to tell DQ about making the series, dramatising the true story it is based on and developing their partnership behind the camera.

Dani de la Torre is surrounded by cast and crew as they watch a monitor

What are the origins of the series?
Marini & De la Torre: After La Unidad, we were looking for a storyline for a new series. We were looking for something linked to the current reality, with a social background, but not told before. When we read an article in [Spanish newspaper] El País about Marbella being described as the ‘UN of organised crime,’ it was clear to us.

What interested you about the original journalistic investigation, and why did you think it would make good material for a TV drama?
Marini & De la Torre: We were attracted by the peculiarity of Marbella described in the article: a unique reality in the world where, in a very small place, more than a hundred international gangs live together in substantial harmony. We are used to series about the Italian, Irish or Russian mafia, or about the Mexican or Colombian cartels, but we have never seen all these mafias and cartels together in a radius of a few kilometres. The reality of Marbella seemed like a tremendous starting point for a series.

Alberto Marini

How did you approach adapting the story for the screen?
Marini & de la Torre: We treasured the experience of the three seasons of La Unidad, where the [research] was key. With Marbella, it was clear to us that research in the city would tell us where to go – and so it happened. We went to Marbella with Nacho Carretero and Arturo Lezcano, authors of El País’ article, and all we could see, and the people we met and interviewed, guided us in the creation of the story. The chance to have a gin & tonic with an Albanian or Colombian mafia boss, a GRECO police chief, a prosecutor, a narco-lawyer or a peacemaker has not only been useful, but has become a vital experience.

How much dramatic licence were you able to take?
Marini & De la Torre: Marbella is a fiction series. There are no real people in it and no real events are portrayed, so we didn’t have to respect the bonds of historical fidelity. But it is inspired by very real situations and people. The world depicted is real, as is the way it works, as an ecosystem of evil. Often our dramatic licence from reality was to make the events more plausible, because if we had written them as they really happened, the audience might not have believed them.

Why did you want to tell this story from the perspective of the attorney, César?
Marini & De la Torre: Two factors add up. In our visits to Marbella, we discovered that a narco-lawyer deals with and knows the mafias, the judicial system, the police, and the political and business power on a one-to-one basis. This is the natural link between all the Marbellas we wanted to show in our series.

Then we were lucky enough to meet Ricardo Ossorio-Álvarez, one of the leading narco-lawyers not only in Marbella but in the world. His eccentric, ostentatious and flamboyant personality and his philosophy of life fascinated us. Ricardo guided us and took us to see all the Marbella we were interested in, through his moral prism and his biting vision. There is a lot of Ricardo in our protagonist. Our César crosses the line and does wild things that Ricardo would never do, but we can say that César and Ricardo live and understand life in a very similar way.

Marbella centres on lawyer César, played by Hugo Silva

What can you tell us about his character and his journey through the series?
Marini: At some point in the series it is said that Marbella is like a huge Garden of Eden, where there are 100 apples and 200 snakes. The temptation in Marbella is extreme for someone who is driven by ambition and money, and our protagonist is no exception. Ambition brings him very, very close to the red line that separates a simple lawyer from a gangster. César’s moral dilemma is where to find the limit, in a place where everything seems to be allowed and where nobody will judge you.

What was the writing process on the show?
Marini: With Dani we have developed a working dynamic that, for the moment, works for us. We discuss everything a lot, talking in detail about all the main aspects of the plot and the characters. Then I do the actual writing, and once something is written, everything is discussed again. In the specific case of Marbella, Nacho Carretero and Arturo Lezcano also entered into the equation, contributing with their experience as journalists and with all the truth about the world of organised crime in Marbella.

How were you able to blend elements of thriller, crime, action and police investigation with characters of many nationalities?
De la Torre: The research was very important and the help of Arturo Lezcano and Nacho Carretero was crucial. Thanks to their knowledge and contacts, we got to know the real mafioso, policemen and lawyers, and we saw them in action, which made things much easier when it came to structuring the series. It also added a black comedy aspect to the first part of the series.

While the series is fictional, it is based on real people and events

This isn’t your first time working together. How did you come together as creative partners and is there a way you like to work together?
Marini: The first time we worked together was on the film El Desconocido [Retribution]. It was the production company that put us in contact then, and the experience was very good. It’s not so much about sharing the same criteria and tastes, but about knowing how to add creatively. Every time we talk or confront each other on a subject, we have the feeling that we come up with better creative solutions than we would have achieved on our own. And this is the key when creating with another person.

Over the years and through the projects, we are trying to perfect the work dynamic, dividing tasks so we can be more and more effective. But, of course, we are not a perfect couple. For example, Dani has the big problem of being a Real Madrid supporter [Marini supports Juventus] and it’s not easy to deal with that!

Dani, what were your thoughts when it came to directing the series and the show’s visual style?
De la Torre: We decided on the visual style after visiting Marbella. The strident colours, the unbridled luxury, the gold and the brightly coloured cars marked the staging and the look of the series.

How did you use locations in the series?
De la Torre: We shot in Marbella, in the same places where the real mafiosos live, and also in Madrid and the Canary Islands.

Marbella debuted on Spanish streamer Movistar Plus+ at the end of last month

What challenges did you face in development or production?
De la Torre: There were many. The budget was limited and Buendía Estudios and Movistar Plus+ made an effort to reflect luxury, glamour and top brands on the screen. We had to reflect millionaires, and that is always a challenge for production.

Why might the series appeal to international audiences?
Marini & De la Torre: Marbella is in Spain, but it is a place known all over the world. And above all, what happens in Marbella in terms of drug trafficking affects the whole world. The cocaine that is consumed right now in Germany, England, Italy, Russia or even Thailand, surely, at some point, has passed through or has been managed by people who operate from Marbella. This is a fact. Marbella is possibly one of the most international ‘brands’ in Spain, for better or worse.

The appeal of the series, we believe, is that it tells the story of a concrete and unique reality. A city located in a privileged area of the Spanish coast, with spectacular weather and a spectacular range of leisure activities, where people from all over the world come together to have a good time, to live in luxury in an innocent way, or to engage in ‘evil.’

What are you working on next?
Marini & De la Torre: On the one hand, we will see if Marbella has more stories to tell. On the other hand, each of us has our own things too. But the desire, without a doubt, is to do something together again.

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