The project was initially set up back in July 2008, when José Padilha (RoboCop) was in talks to direct, and Don Cheadle was set to star. It isn't known if José Padilha is still attached to take the helm.
The story is based on the book Marching Powder: A True Story of Friendship, Cocaine, and South America's Strangest Jail by Thomas McFadden and Rusty Young. Chiwetel Ejiofor will play McFadden, a British drug trafficker who spent five years in a Bolivia prison, which developed its own economic system.
McFadden himself gave tours of the correctional facility, which was essentially run by the inmates who were expected to buy their own cells like real estate, with shops and restaurants also on the premises. Hundreds of women and children lived with their family members who were locked up, but the prison also housed a massive cocaine laboratory. Rusty Young is a journalist who heard about McFadden's story and bribed the guards to share a cell with him.
Jerry Kalajian is serving as executive producer on Marching Powder, but a writer and director has not been set at this time. Chiwetel Ejiofor is coming off of his Oscar-nominated performance in 12 Years a Slave, and he will next be seen in Triple Nine.