September 25, 2019 — The story of New York drug baron Nicky Barnes will be the subject of an upcoming Netflix movie starring Academy Award-nominee Will Smith. The project will be directed by Peter Landesman (Concussion) and produced by Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment. The title of the film is The Council, a reference to the mafia-like board of directors Barnes founded that ruled over the African-American heroin trade in Harlem the 1970s and early 1980s.
At the height of his power in late 70s, Barnes graced the cover of The New York Times Magazine in a finely-tailored double-breasted designer denim suit and a red, white and blue tie with a headline reading “Mr. Untouchable.” The audacious nature of the cover shoot and accompanying profile piece drew the ire of the Feds and President Jimmy Carter, who reportedly called the Justice Department once he read the article and demanded an escalation of resources put towards bringing Barnes down. He would be indicted and convicted of narcotics trafficking and racketeering by the end of the decade.
Feeling betrayed by his protege and Council member Guy Fisher, who was having an affair with his girlfriend, Barnes stunned the New York underworld and turned state’s s evidence, entering the Witness Protection Program and helping U.S. prosecutors dismantle his own empire.
While serving time in prison in the 1960s, Barnes forged ties to Italian mobsters like “Crazy Joey” Gallo of the Colombo crime family and Matty Madonna of the Lucchese clan. Gallo acted as an advisor to Barnes as he implemented a “La Cosa Nostra”-inspired business structure in the Harlem drug racket he ran upon his release. Madonna was his main supplier.
Quietly leaving prison in the summer of 1998, Barnes was given a new identity. A decade later, he penned a book titled Mr. Untouchable that was released in 2007. A well-received documentary based on the book followed. Barnes died living under an assumed name in 2012.
Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. gave a cartoonish portrayal of Barnes in the film 2007 American Gangster about his Harlem heroin chief counterpart Frank Lucas played by Denzel Washington. Lucas, also a cooperator, passed away earlier this year. His organization was known as The Country Boys.