"I didn't like the original movie that much," Stone told Creative Screenwriting. "It didn't really hit me at all and I had no desire to make another Italian gangster picture because so many had been done so well, there would be no point to it.
The origin of it, according to Martin Bregman, [was that] Al had seen the '30s version on television, he loved it and expressed to Marty as his long-time mentor/partner that he'd like to do a role like that. So Marty presented it to me and I had no interest in doing a period piece." Sidney Lumet was the first choice to direct this film, and it was his idea to make the characters Cuban and to include the 1980 Mariel harbor boat lift in the story.
"Sidney Lumet came up with the idea of what's happening today in Miami, and it inspired Bregman," Pacino told Empire Magazine. "He and Oliver Stone got together and produced a script that had a lot of energy and was very well written. Stone was writing about stuff that was touching on things that were going on in the world, he was in touch with that energy and that rage and that underbelly."
"Sidney Lumet had stepped into the deal," Stone said. "Sidney had a great idea to take the 1930s American prohibition gangster movie and make it into a modern immigrant gangster movie dealing with the same problems that we had then, that we're prohibiting drugs instead of alcohol. There's a prohibition against drugs that's created the same criminal class as (prohibition of alcohol) created the Mafia. It was a remarkable idea."
Although Lumet's involvement was what lured Stone into the project, when Bregman contacted Stone again about the project later, his opinion changed. According to Stone: "Sidney Lumet hated my script. I don't know if he'd say that in public himself, I sound like a petulant screenwriter saying that, I'd rather not say that word. Let me say that Sidney did not understand my script, whereas Bregman wanted to continue in that direction with Al."