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Who is American Gangster Based on? Was Frank Lucas a Real Person?

“American Gangster,” which stars Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, is one of Ridley Scott’s most well-known and well-liked movies from the 2000s.

Is the Story in American Gangster Real?

On Rotten Tomatoes, the story of Frank Lucas’s drug empire and the lawman who was determined to bring it down is still in the top 10 of Scott’s most well-reviewed movies.

The director’s rare foray into the criminal underworld was full of amazing supporting actors like Josh Brolin, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Common. It was also full of shocking details that were almost too unbelievable to believe.

How much of Scott’s long story is based on real events? Did one good cop in a town that seemed bad really help bring down a cruel drug boss, and how much of what was shown to do this was real?

Was this “American Gangster” a descendant of the equally infamous Bumpy Johnson, and did it all start with a very strange coat? Let’s find out by opening the case file.

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Was Frank Lucas a Real Person?

First, make sure that “American Gangster” Frank Lucas was a real person who built a drug empire and got 60 years in prison when he was caught.

But the movie doesn’t quite show how he was related to Bumpy Johnson, the crime boss who came before him and was just as powerful.

In the movie, Frank is a close friend of Bumpy and learns from him until he dies in his arms from health problems in the middle of an electronics store.
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In an interview with Planet Ill in 2019, Johnson’s wife, Mayme Hatcher Johnson, said that Bumpy and Frank were not as close as the movie made it seem.

“Frank Lucas was never accepted into Bumpy’s circle, and from what I’ve seen on BET and in movie trailers, I think that’s just a bunch of lies.” She also said that Frank wasn’t there when Bumpy passed away: “I was in the house, and he had just left.

We had watched the “Lawrence Welk Show” that night, and he decided to ride out with Junie Byrd. That’s where he died, or where he had a heart attack. On the way to Harlem Hospital, he died.”

Soon after, this was brought up to Lucas in an interview with VLAD TV. He didn’t disagree with what Mayme Hatcher Johnson said, but he did say, “I worked for Bumpy Johnson for 13 years, 9 months, and 8 days, not 15 years like the movie says.”

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Frank Did Kill Tango, but Not in the Way You Think

One of the most exciting parts of the movie comes early on when Frank starts to build his empire.

After getting into a fight with Tango, a rival gangster played by Idris Elba, Frank shoots him dead without warning and then goes back to a family meeting across the street for everyone to see.

It looks like Frank was trying to send a message to anyone who was watching. It also shows how serious he was.

Incredibly, the real Frank wrote proudly about this event in New York Magazine as he walked by the spot where it happened. Even though Frank’s family wasn’t there like in the movie, Lucas said that he took out one of the scary characters to make a point.

“If you want to do the kind of work I did, you have to be real. You have to show what you’re ready to do “said Lucas. “I shot him. Four times all the way through bam, bam, bam, bam.”

It Was a Real Coat and Hat

In the 2007 movie, one of the most important things that led to Frank’s downfall was that he didn’t listen to his own advice and went to a boxing match in a “loud” outfit.

Richie Roberts notices Frank because he is wearing a chinchilla fur coat and hat, and he tells Frank how to bring him down.

It turns out that the bad choice of clothes in the movie was a real one.

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The New York Post reported, after the release of his autobiography “Original Gangster,” that Frank wore the $50,000 chinchilla coat and $10,000 matching hat to the Ali vs. Frazer fight in 1971, which caught the attention of the officers there, as shown in the movie.
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The expensive coat wasn’t a gift, as shown in the movie. Frank bought it himself, and the former crime boss knew it was a decision he would come to regret. He called the night his “biggest mistake” and said, “I left that fight a marked man.”


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