The Mule
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The Mule is a 2018 American crime drama film produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, who also plays the lead role. The screenplay, by Nick Schenk, is based on the 2014 The New York Times article The Sinaloa Cartel s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule by Sam Dolnick, which recounts the story of Leo Sharp, a World War II veteran who became a drug courier for the Sinaloa Cartel in his 80s.

Along with Eastwood, the film stars Bradley Cooper, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Peña, Dianne Wiest, and Andy García. It is Eastwood s first acting project since 2012 s Trouble with the Curve, and his first starring role in a film directed by him since 2008 s Gran Torino. Filming began in June 2018, taking place in Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia, with other film locations in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

The Mule was released in the United States on December 14, 2018, by Warner Bros. It has grossed over $174 million. The film received positive reviews, with critics calling it poignant and charming while also praising Eastwood s performance, but was criticized for its lack of dramatic heft.


In 2005, Korean War veteran and famous horticulturalist Earl Stone misses his daughter Iris s wedding so he can receive a lifetime award celebrating his professional accomplishments. Enraged that her father once again chose his career over her, Iris stops speaking to him and his wife Mary files for divorce.

Twelve years later, Earl visits his granddaughter Ginny to attend her wedding rehearsal, not telling his family that the only reason he s there is because his flower farming business has gone bankrupt, and his home has just been foreclosed on by the bank. While there, he is spotted by a member of a drug cartel who had been tipped off by one of Earl s former employees as to his financial problems. Earl accepts the gangster s offer and becomes a mule , transporting cocaine through Illinois for the cartel.

Facing little suspicion due to his age, ethnicity, spotless criminal history, and strict adherence to driving laws, Earl is soon entrusted with huge amounts of drugs, the delivery of which earns him thousands of dollars. Over time, Earl gets more involved with the cartel and becomes one of their best mules. With the money he buys a new truck, buys back his home, and even pays for badly needed renovations on behalf of the local VFW post (which had been damaged in a fire). Earl even pays for Ginny s wedding and tuition so she can attend college.

Meanwhile, Special Agent Colin Bates moves to the Chicago DEA office and is assigned Agent Trevino as his partner. They are tasked with narrowing in on the cartel s deliveries to Chicago. Bates and Trevino find an informant from within the cartel and start looking for their most profitable driver, Tata (grandfather). The head of the cartel, Laton, is overjoyed with Earl s success and invites him to a party. Earl mistakenly believes that the cartel considers him their friend. Things take a turn for the worse when Laton is assassinated and replaced by another gangster, Gustavo. Gustavo is more bloodthirsty and controlling than Laton and demands Earl be kept under tighter control.

In the middle of a $12 million cocaine shipment, Earl winds up in a diner with Bates. Neither man recognizes the other, and the elderly Earl gives Bates advice to try and mend fences with his wife and not make the mistakes Earl has made. Earl then leaves to conclude the delivery of the shipment but then gets a call from Ginny, who informs him that Mary is gravely ill. Earl initially tells Ginny there s nothing he can do until she rebukes him for his perceived lack of care. Earl relents and disobeys Gustavo, making peace with Mary and staying with her in her final moments. Mary dies peacefully days later. After attending the funeral and finally reconciling with Iris and the rest of his family, Earl resumes the delivery as both the DEA and the cartel close in on him.

The cartel s enforcers catch him and upon discovering that he disobeyed them to care for his wife, they call Gustavo to request leniency. Gustavo agrees to this demand and allows Earl to continue. Earl proceeds to the drop point but the DEA agents finally catch up and arrest him; Bates has a pleasant aside with Earl before sending him away. In court, Earl s lawyer starts to give an impassioned plea, asking for mercy for Earl due to his age and military service. However, a clearly guilt-ridden Earl interrupts her to plead guilty to all charges and is promptly sent to federal prison. His family lend him their support and promise to visit him. In prison, he returns to horticulture.


  • Clint Eastwood as Earl Stone, a drug mule (based on Leo Sharp)
  • Bradley Cooper as Colin Bates, a DEA agent (based on Jeff Moore)
  • Laurence Fishburne as Warren Lewis, Bates’ supervisor
  • Michael Peña as Trevino, Bates’ partner
  • Dianne Wiest as Mary Stone, Earl s estranged ex-wife
  • Ignacio Serricchio as Julio Gutierrez, Earl s cartel handler
  • Andy García as Latón, a Cartel boss
  • Taissa Farmiga as Ginny, Earl s granddaughter Kinsley Isla Dillon as young Ginny
  • Kinsley Isla Dillon as young Ginny
  • Alison Eastwood as Iris, Earl s estranged daughter
  • Richard Herd as Tim Kennedy
  • Lobo Sebastian as Bug, a cartel enforcer
  • Manny Montana as Axl
  • Noel G. as Bald Rob
  • Eugene Cordero as Luis Rocha, DEA informant inside the cartel
  • Clifton Collins Jr. as Gustavo, who takes over from Latón
  • Victor Rasuk as Rico, an attendee at Ginny s bridal party who offers Earl his first job
  • Robert LaSardo as Emilio, Earl s first employer
  • Daniel Moncada as Eduardo, a high-ranking cartel member



During 2014, DEA Special Agent Jeff Moore, who arrested 87-year-old Leo Sharp in 2011, was interviewed by The New York Times regarding the investigation of Sharp, the world s oldest and most prolific drug mule. The rights to the subsequent article, The Sinaloa Cartel s 90-Year-Old Drug Mule by Sam Dolnick, were sold to Imperative Entertainment later that year.

Imperative hired Ruben Fleischer to direct and produce the film. In February 2015, Nick Schenk was hired to adapt the article into a film screenplay.

In January 2018, it was revealed that the film would be titled The Mule and that Clint Eastwood would direct the film instead, as well as produce and star in it, for Warner Bros. Entertainment and Imperative. Producers include Eastwood for Malpaso Productions, along with Tim Moore, Kristina Rivera and Jessica Meier, and Dan Friedkin and Bradley Thomas for Imperative Entertainment. Fleischer executive produced.


In January 2018, Eastwood was set to play the role of Earl Stone, a Korean War veteran in his 80s, based on World War II veteran Leo Sharp, who worked as a drug courier for a Mexican cartel. In May 2018, Bradley Cooper joined the cast to play DEA agent Colin Bates, based on agent Jeff Moore, who is chasing Stone, and along with Cooper, Lobo Sebastian also joined the film. In June 2018, Dianne Wiest and Michael Peña joined the film s cast to play Earl Stone s ex-wife and Bates fellow DEA agent, respectively. More cast members were also confirmed, including Laurence Fishburne as a DEA special agent in charge, Alison Eastwood as Stone s daughter, Taissa Farmiga as Stone s granddaughter, and Ignacio Serricchio as Stone s cartel handler. That same month, Loren Dean joined the cast of the film. In July 2018, Victor Rasuk was cast, and Manny Montana was also confirmed.


Principal photography on the film began on June 4, 2018 in Atlanta, Rome, and Augusta, Georgia. It was also shot in Las Cruces, New Mexico.


The film was released on December 14, 2018 in the United States and released on January 25, 2019 in the United Kingdom. It premiered on December 10, 2018 in Westwood, California.

Home media

The Mule was released on digital HD on March 19, 2019 and on 4K UHD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD on April 2, 2019. It is also available for online streaming video and digital downloading through Apple s iTunes Store and Vudu.


Box office

The Mule grossed $103.8 million in the United States and Canada, and $69.8 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $173.6 million, against a production budget of $50 million.

In the United States and Canada, The Mule was released alongside Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Mortal Engines, and was projected to gross $15–18 million from 2,588 theaters in its opening weekend. It made $5.9 million on its first day and $17.5 million over the weekend, finishing second at the box office and marking the third-best opening of Eastwood s acting career, after Gran Torino and Space Cowboys. It made $9.5 million in its second weekend, finishing fifth, and then $4.9 million on Christmas Day.

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 71% based on 190 reviews, with an average rating of 6.2/10. The website s critical consensus reads, A flawed yet enjoyable late-period Eastwood entry, The Mule stubbornly retains its footing despite a few missteps on its occasionally unpredictable path. On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 58 out of 100, based on 37 critics, indicating mixed or average reviews . Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of A− on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it four out of five stars.

Peter Debruge of Variety wrote, It s a great true story, colorfully told by Sam Dolnick in The New York Times . David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a B+ and called it Eastwood s best in over 25 years, writing: This soulful and deeply satisfying film—a fitting swan song, if ever there was one—makes a compelling argument that change is always possible, and that the path we re on is never as narrow as the highway makes it look. In 2019, The Mule was included in Richard Brody s list of the 27 best films of the decade.

Year 2018
ReleaseDate 2018-12-14
RuntimeMins 116
RuntimeStr 1h 56min
Plot A ninety-year-old horticulturist and Korean War veteran turns drug mule for a Mexican cartel.
Awards Awards, 1 win & 10 nominations
Directors Clint Eastwood
Writers Nick Schenk, Sam Dolnick
Stars Clint Eastwood, Patrick L. Reyes, Cesar De León
Produced by Jillian Apfelbaum,David Bernad,David M. Bernstein,Jason Cloth,Clint Eastwood,Ruben Fleischer,Dan Friedkin,Aaron L. Gilbert,Holly Hagy,Todd Hoffman,Jessica Meier,Tim Moore,Kristina Rivera,Bradley Thomas
Music by Arturo Sandoval
Cinematography by Yves Bélanger
Film Editing by Joel Cox
Casting By Geoffrey Miclat
Production Design by Kevin Ishioka
Art Direction by Rory Bruen,Julien Pougnier
Set Decoration by Ronald R. Reiss
Costume Design by Deborah Hopper
Makeup Department Luisa Abel,Maurice Beaman,Cynthia L. Chapman,Cheryl Daniels,Patricia Dehaney,Kimber Eastwood,Janine Maloney,Lori McCoy-Bell,Nichole Miller,Devin Shayla Morales,Emerald Ortega,Mollie Siegel,Jordan Venetis,Jay Wejebe,LuAndra Whitehurst,Lance Aldredge,Heather Beauvais,Chawana Jones,Jennifer Nieman
Production Management Holly Hagy,Tim Moore,Mark Scoon
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director David M. Bernstein,Stephen S. Campanelli,Jeff Hubbard,Robert Ratner,Zack Smith
Art Department Jeff Angelo,Carla Bailey,Lance Cheatham,Colton Comans,Mick Cummings,Bruce Di Valerio,Kel Genovese,Lindsay Good,Herbie Henderson,Zach Kane,Mayumi Konishi-Valentine,Ji Young Lee,Clarke McAlarney,Kenneth Miles,Garry Moore,John Moredock,Parker Morris,Roderick Nunnally,Michael Okuda,Graham Dane Parker,Brett Quarmby,Kenneth R. Saunchegraw,Kevin Shaw,Dan Shoen,John Sommerville,Eitan Sonnenberg,Jason Sweers,Garrett Walden,Will Wild Bill Davis
Sound Department Greg Crawford,Jack Cucci,John T. Cucci,Craig Dollinger,Michael Dressel,Brittany Ellis,Goeun Lee Everett,Catherine Harper,Colin Heath,Matthew Iadarola,Darrin Mann,Darren Maynard,Ryan McCabe,Harrison Meyle,Steven Morrow,Ryan Murphy,Alan Robert Murray,Dan O Connell,Willard Overstreet,Tony Pilkington,John T. Reitz,Adam Sharpe,Unsun Song,Aaron Southerland,John St. Denis,Cameron Steenhagen,John C. Stuver,John Joseph Thomas,Christian Wenger,Dean A. Zupancic
Special Effects by Bryan Brimecombe,Barry Hart,Randy E. Moore,Wayne Rowe,J.D. Schwalm
Visual Effects by Ryan Allen,Richard Alonso,Sumit Milind Ambhore,Jason Bowers,Prathmesh Chaukekar,Kelsey Elias,Shizan Faisal,Vikas Kaushal,Suraj Kaur Khalsa,Amit Kumar,Adam Ohl,Liz Radley,Mrinal Ranjan,Rick Sander,Jimit Shah,Abhishek Shaw,Graham Tailleur,Yogendra Tonke,Nishant Yadav
Stunts David Alessi,Cristin Azure,Trent Brya,Paul Chappell,Doug Coleman,Eliza Coleman,Scott Dale,Dean Grimes,Mitchell Gunter,Darryl W. Handy,Alexander Hashioka Oatfield,Bobby Hernandez,Crystal Hooks,C.C. Ice,Jenny Jerman,Warren Jones,Aaron Matthews,Charlie Parrish,Allen Robinson,Derek Russo,Thom Khoury Williams,Tyler Witte,Michael D. Jenkins
Camera and Electrical Department James W. Apted,Hans Bjerno,Hugh Braselton,Stephen S. Campanelli,Tim Chang,Tyler Childs,Logan Covelli,Justin Cowart,Brandon Crawford,James B. Crawford,Melissa Di Meglio,Eric Dvorsky,Michael Dzialowski,David Elwell,Terry Fitzpatrick,Claire Folger,Jordan Gehrig,David M. Giannamore,Anil Gonnabathula,Grayson Hunter,Michael Kellogg,Richard Dennis Kinnard,Kyle Leftridge,Ryan Louden,Matt Matches,Matthew McGinn,Justin Memovich,John J. Moers,Owen Patry,Melissa Porter,Scott Pouncy,Caitlin Rodiek,Charles Saldana,Val Schubert,Nick Seoane,Matt Shearer,Mical Swett,Doug Wall,Ross Wellman,Jeremy Wren
Animation Department Becky Altringer
Casting Department Tara Feldstein,Barbara Harris,Selena Montania,Jyl Murray,Eve Streger
Costume and Wardrobe Department Erika Arnold,Michael Crow,Dinah DuPont,Chloé Annick Ginsburg,Kaylie Hamborg,Matthew Jerome,Mitchell Ray Kenney,Seanan Kenney,Torri Knight,Les Morgan,Kathy Oberlin,Vicente Parada,Laura Simmons,Jack Taggart,Kim Trujillo
Editorial Department David S. Cox,Maxine Gervais,Chris Giuffrida,Nathan Godley,Erik Kaufmann,Jeff Pantaleo,Bob Peishel,Andrew K. Ross,Denise Woodgerd
Location Management Chad Boardsen,Renee Brock,Dylan Brodie,Clint Fumanti,Justin M. Hamilton,Jake Hektoen,Eric Maldonado,Katie Max,Patrick Mignano,Shani Orona,Dustin Pitan,Ian Simpson,Walter Smith,Georgia Anne Thompson,Mark Vasconcellos,Andrew Warren,Elizabeth A. Wright
Music Department Ross Gasworth,Tom Hardisty,Paul S. Henning,Dylan C. Jones,Oumi Kapila,Kevin Kaska,Michael Kaufman,Armen Ksajikian,Tim Lauer,Chris McGeary,Ryan Robinson,Eric Shetzen,Andrew Synowiec,Spencer Wright,Kris Dirksen,Nate Tronerud
Script and Continuity Department Ana Maria Quintana
Transportation Department Ryan Allen,Tony Barattini,Joe Bernier,Kevin Dean,Brian Gregory,Omar Isaacs,Alana McGaughy,Tim McGaughy,Thomas Mckissic,Domiciano Rodriquez,Mark Sanchez,Larry Stelling,Jeremy Stokes,Bradford Turner,John Vanderwagen,Morgan Vinson,Dawna Bennett
Additional Crew Coleen Aiello,Steph Allen,Jennifer Asaro,Katie Benson,Caroline Bielskis,John Blanford,David Boyle,Alex Castillo,Jennifer Davis,Cindy Doan,Eric Dvorsky,Gino Falsetto,Taylor Flaim,Dan Friedkin,Jennifer Furgal,Charlotte Gleason,Steve Goldstein,Vincent Chenzy Graziano,Brian Green,Elizabeth Guiberteau,Karen A. Harris,Lauren M. Higgs,Rebecca Hilliard,Tara Hunter,Casey Wayne Hupp,Jossara Jinaro,Shadan Johnson,Patrick Kirschner,Tyler Kline,Joshua Loiko,Terry O. Love,Candace Luce,Deion McCarter,Darin McCormick-Millett,Megan Mieduch,Austin Minotto,David Moore,Allie Moreno,Stacie Motobo,Sinatra Onyewuchi,Johnny Palomarez Jr.,Emmanuel Pappas,Rob Porter,Elizabeth Rios,Darin Sahler,Aaron Salazar,Sean Satterwhite,Christopher Sgubin,Brendan Shepherd,Steven Thibault,Rachel Thompson,Joel Tokarsky,Miguel J. Torres,Anthony Trovato,Kelvin Tyler,Robert S. Wilhelm Jr.,Mary Woods,Daniel Zubiate,Ladd Lanford
Thanks Jeff Moore,Pierre Rissient,Richard Schickel
Genres Crime, Drama, Thriller
Companies Warner Bros., Imperative Entertainment, Bron Creative
Countries USA, Canada
Languages English, Spanish
ContentRating R
ImDbRating 7
ImDbRatingVotes 136685
MetacriticRating 58
Keywords drug cartel,old man,based on true story,drug mule,singing in a car