Director J.C. Chandor's film has been in the works since 2009; it was originally envisioned as Kathryn Bigelow's follow-up to her Oscar-winning movie The Hurt Locker. Paramount and actors Tom Hardy and Channing Tatum dropped out in April, weeks before production began. After they abandoned the project, Netflix picked up the film, and Ben was first attached in May.
Mark Boal (of The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty fame) wrote the screenplay, set in the converging border territory of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. The high-profile project has attracted some major actors over the years, including Johnny Depp, Tom Hanks and Will Smith.