Netflix has officially announced that Oscar-winner Will Smith is attached to play real-life Harlem gangster Nicky Barnes in their upcoming biopic titled The Council written by Concussion’s Peter Landesman.
The Council is the never-before told story of a crime syndicate consisting of seven African-American men who ruled Harlem in the 1970s and early 80s. No ordinary crime syndicate – the men dreamed of a self-sufficient and self-policing African American city-state, funded by revolutionizing the drug game. The movie centers on the Shakespearean court intrigue between The Council’s king, Nicky Barnes, dubbed “Mr. Untouchable” by the New York Times, and all the different members as one unlikely rising protégé emerges.
Barnes, whose death was recently made known, was an American crime boss, active in New York City during the 1970s who led an international drug trafficking ring, in partnership with the Italian-American Mafia, until his arrest in 1978. Barnes was sentenced to life imprisonment, eventually becoming a federal informant.
Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. previously played Nicky Barnes in Ridley Scott’s film American Gangster, which focused on Barnes’ rival Frank Lucas played by Denzel Washington.
Smith’s upcoming features include Ang Lee’s sci-fi flick Gemini Man and his return to the Bad Boys franchise co-starring with Martin Laurence with Bad Boys For Life.
Playing a drug-dealing gangster is certainly placing Will Smith in unfamiliar territory as the actor is careful not to take on roles like these and has avoided them for most of his career.
A director and supporting cast have yet to be revealed by Netflix.