Original Content podcast: Director Theo Love explains ‘The Legend of Cocaine Island’

Most documentary filmmakers want to convince you that the story they’re telling is important. But Theo Love, director of the new Netflix documentary “The Legend of Cocaine Island,” said he was attracted to his subject matter for the opposite reason.

“A lot of the documentary subject matter that we had been considering and that we saw out there was pretty dark and very, very painfully important,” Love told me. “I wanted to make something that wasn’t important at all. I wanted to make something that was kind of just a silly story and that was just for entertainment.”

As Love explains in the latest episode of the Original Content podcast, “Cocaine Island” tells the story of Rodney Hyden, a middle-aged man with no drug-trafficking experience who learns about millions of dollars’ worth of cocaine that is supposedly buried on a Caribbean island.

Hyden actually plays himself in the film — not just as an interview subject, but in reenactments of key moments in the story. Love explained that choice as “a combination of necessity meets inspiration.”

“Look, this is an indie film, and we didn’t have a huge budget to get Jack Black or John Goodman to do the recreations,” he said. “But when we met Rodney, it was pretty clear from the get-go that he could do [them]. He just had that type of charisma, that you wanted to watch him.”

And while the film was made independently before being picked up by Netflix (which also gave the documentary its current name), Love said he was thinking about the streaming service from the start.

“I mean, documentaries really changed because of Netflix,” he said. “And the audience that documentaries are getting has changed drastically over the last decade because of Netflix. They’ve brought documentaries to the masses.”

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