Florida man's cocaine odyssey retold in Netflix documentary
In 2012, Alachua County experienced a crime story almost too strange to be true.
Rodney Hyden of Archer was charged with intent to distribute cocaine after embarking on a treasure hunt to uncover 70 pounds of buried “white gold” in Puerto Rico.
Yet the story behind the arrest proved just as unbelievable. So much so that the plot caught director Theo Love’s eye.
And in March, the Alachua County true crime tale made its Netflix debut.
“It’s a tale of a campfire story gone wrong,” Love said. “It’s buried treasure, with a twist.”
The story depicted in “The Legend of Cocaine Island” begins in an unassuming way. For years, Hyden and friends passed beers around a campfire, just off the beaten path in Archer. After a few Mason jars of wine, the silver-haired, perpetually-barefoot Julian would repeat a familiar tale. Between 15 and 20 years ago, on the shores of the Pirates of the Caribbean-esque island Culebra, Julian stumbled upon a bale of cocaine. Not knowing what to do, he buried the stash and returned to the States to live in a trailer.
In comes Hyden, a recently riches-to-rags family man hit hard from the Great Recession. After fixating on Julian’s story about the $2 million dollars worth of cocaine lying in the sand, he decided to dig it up.
The plot follows Hyden as he devises and attempts the cross-country, drug-running endeavor that resulted in the county sheriff’s office busting his plan and a 60-day stint in federal prison.
The Netflix premiere comes at a time when “Florida man” crimes are swarming online meme culture. And Love said when he found this “Southern Fairytale,” he couldn’t pass it up.
“There was something about Rodney’s story that just seemed so absurd,” he said.
Love called Hyden one day and asked if he was interested in playing himself on the big screen.
According to Love, Hyden said he’s been waiting for someone from Hollywood to approach him, and began to laugh over the phone.
The Los-Angeles based director had never been to Alachua County, but grew fond of the area.
“It’s a unique part of America,” he said. “A lot of people, when they go to Florida, head to the beach. Central Florida has a lot of interesting aspects.”
As for the small town of Archer, Love said the place felt like “a different world” while driving through areas to film.
He recalled driving along a sand road one day when Hyden began to point at something through the trees.
“You see that?” Hyden asked. “That’s Julian.”
There, within the backdrop of Spanish-moss and branches, stood the “hippie version of Gandalf” himself, as put by Love.
Near the end of the movie, crew members asked Julian to retell his side of the story that created a firestorm.
“It’s not my story,” Julian said.
They asked whose it is.
“It’s not mine,” he said with a laugh.
Since serving time, Hyden has been fulfilling his community service duty at Alachua County’s Habitat for Humanity.
He was not speaking to press on the day of the Netflix premiere.