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Whatever Happened To The Cast Of American Gangster

"American Gangster" was released in 2007 to much acclaim. As the title suggests, it's a gangster film, but what sets it apart from other American crime movies — and even other gangster films set in New York — is the specific setting of Harlem and the dual-perspective structure that follows the drug kingpin Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington) as well as the vice cop working to take him down, Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe). The natural push and pull of these two complex characters is a major aspect of why the film works as well as it does.

Director Ridley Scott's energetic pacing keeps this 157-minute-long film moving quickly, and Steven Zaillian's screenplay, adapted from the New York magazine article "The Return of Superfly," provides the star-studded cast with great material to really sink their teeth into. With two Oscar-winning superstars in the lead roles, it might be easy to overshadow the rest of the cast, so let's check in on what this ensemble of performers has been up to in the years since the release of "American Gangster."

Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas

Denzel Washington starred as Frank Lucas, the American gangster of the title. The film was based on a true story, and Washington was able to meet and speak with the real Frank Lucas at great length to learn what made him tick and to figure out his mentality. Washington had already won two Academy Awards at the time of making "American Gangster" — for Best Supporting Actor in "Glory" and Best Actor in "Training Day" — and has been nominated for an additional seven, including one for Best Picture as a producer on 2016's "Fences."

In the years following "American Gangster," Denzel Washington's career has slowed down slightly without losing any of its luster or acclaim. Though he typically takes a little longer between acting projects now than in the early days of his career, he also works more often as a producer and, occasionally, as a director. His latest directorial project, "A Journal for Jordan," is currently in post-production and scheduled for release in December of this year. Some of Washington's more notable films since "American Gangster" include "The Great Debaters," which he also directed, "Flight," which earned him another Best Actor Oscar nomination, "Fences," which he directed after starring in the stage version alongside co-star Viola Davis, and "Roman J. Israel, Esq." which earned him his most recent Oscar nomination. His next starring role is in "The Tragedy of Macbeth," written for the screen and directed by Joel Coen of the Coen brothers in his first solo project.

Russell Crowe as Ritchie Roberts

Russell Crowe starred opposite Denzel Washington as Richie Roberts, the vice cop dedicated to catching Frank Lucas. Just like Denzel Washington, Crowe was already an Academy Award winner at the time of making "American Gangster." Crowe won the Best Actor Oscar for his work in Ridley Scott's "Gladiator" and was nominated twice more for "The Insider" and "A Beautiful Mind."

Directly following "American Gangster," Crowe and director Ridley Scott worked together again on "Body of Lies" in 2008. They would collaborate again on "Robin Hood" in 2010, which was also the first feature film that Crowe served as a producer on. Other noteworthy Russell Crowe films since "American Gangster" include "Les Misérables," "Man of Steel," "Boy Erased," "Noah" from director Darren Aronofsky, and "The Nice Guys" from writer and director Shane Black. Crowe made his own directorial debut in 2014 with "The Water Diviner," while his second film as a director, "Poker Face," was in production until a COVID case was found amongst the crew. "The production has been immediately paused and everyone instructed to isolate," Crowe wrote of the incident (via Deadline).

Josh Brolin as Detective Trupo

The role of the corrupt Detective Trupo was filled by Josh Brolin. 2007 was a big year for Josh Brolin, who appeared in a total of five projects. The same year he appeared in "American Gangster," Brolin also starred in "Planet Terror," the first half of the Robert Rodriguez-Quentin Tarantino double feature "Grindhouse," and the Academy Award-winning "No Country for Old Men." Though Brolin had already been acting consistently since his debut in "The Goonies" in 1985, his career really kicked into high gear in the years following "American Gangster" with consistently bigger roles.

In 2008, Brolin received his first, and so far only, Oscar nomination for his performance in "Milk." He teamed up again with the Coen brothers for a supporting role in 2010's "True Grit" remake and again in 2016 with a lead role in "Hail, Caesar!" Some of Brolin's other notable roles have been in the "Sicario" films, "Men in Black 3" — where he plays the younger version of his "No Country for Old Men" co-star Tommy Lee Jones — and as Marvel supervillain Thanos in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Brolin's most recent performance was in Denis Villeneuve's "Dune" as Gurney Halleck, a weapons expert for House Atreides.

Chiwetel Ejiofor as Huey Lucas

Frank Lucas enlists the help of his brothers when building and running his criminal empire, and one of those brothers is Huey Lucas, as played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Before "American Gangster," Ejiofor had enjoyed a handful of good roles, but it wasn't until he starred in Steve McQueen's 2013 film "12 Years a Slave" as Solomon Northup — and earned his first Oscar nomination to date — that he was really rocketed to stardom.

Ejiofor would wind up working with director Ridley Scott again in 2015 on "The Martian." He has also appeared in action films such as "The Old Guard," which has a sequel in the works, and "Triple 9" from director John Hillcoat. Ejiofor entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe in 2016 as Mordo in "Doctor Strange," a role which he is reprising in the upcoming "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." Ejiofor has also made his way into voice acting, providing the voice of Scar in the updated "The Lion King." Outside of the film industry, Ejiofor has had a long history as a theater performer in the United Kingdom. He has acted in many plays, including a number of Shakespearean works such as "Othello," "Romeo and Juliet," and "Macbeth."

Ted Levine as Lou Toback

Character actor Ted Levine, who was brought in to fill the role of Lou Toback, may have been best known previously as the disturbed serial killer Buffalo Bill in "The Silence of the Lambs." Levine has worked regularly since his career began in the early 1980s, popping up in many excellent films and television shows, though rarely in a lead role. More often than not, Levine plays memorable supporting parts. One of his largest was as Captain Leeland Stottlemeyer on the television series "Monk," which ran for eight seasons before, during, and after the release of "American Gangster."

The same year as "American Gangster," Levine also appeared as Sheriff Timberlake in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford." Levine's first film following "American Gangster" was the Martin Scorsese thriller "Shutter Island," in which he had a small role as the warden who shares a tense car ride with DiCaprio's main character. He also appeared in the boxing film "Bleed for This" and the franchise entry "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom." Other major television shows Levine has played recurring characters on include the HBO series "Luck," "Ray Donovan," and most recently "The Alienist."

John Hawkes as Freddie Spearman

John Hawkes had already begun to establish himself as a formidable character actor by the time he played Freddie Spearman in "American Gangster." Before the film, John Hawkes was likely best known as Sol Star on the HBO series "Deadwood," though some viewers might have remembered him fondly from his small but memorable supporting role in "From Dusk Till Dawn" as the liquor store clerk who shoots Quentin Tarantino through the hand.

Hawkes works frequently, often doing multiple films every year. Since he began acting in the mid-1980s, he has appeared in well over 100 films and television shows. In 2011, he earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his work as Teardrop in "Winter's Bone." The following year, he had memorable roles in "Martha Marcy May Marlene" and Steven Soderbergh's "Contagion." Though many of Hawkes's best parts are supporting characters, "The Sessions" provided him with an excellent leading role as a man in an iron lung who hires a sex surrogate to lose his virginity. The film earned him a Screen Actors Guild nomination along with other awards attention. Recently, Hawkes appeared in "The Peanut Butter Falcon," the mini-series "Too Old to Die Young," and "Deadwood: The Movie," reprising the character of Sol.

RZA as Moses Jones

RZA, whose real name is Robert Fitzgerald Diggs, began his career in the entertainment industry as a rapper with the Wu-Tang Clan. RZA's first film as an actor was the Jim Jarmusch project "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai," for which he also composed the original soundtrack. His next film was another Jim Jarmusch project a few years later, the anthology film "Coffee and Cigarettes." Since then, RZA began acting more regularly, and his role as Moses Jones in "American Gangster" was an important stepping stone in his career, one which taught him a great deal about the process of making movies.

Since "American Gangster," RZA has appeared in comedies like "Funny People," "A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas," and "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping," as well as action films like "Repo Men," "Brick Mansions," and "The Next Three Days," which saw him re-teaming with his "American Gangster" co-star Russell Crowe. He is collaborating with Russell Crowe again in the upcoming "Poker Face," which Crowe is also directing. In television, RZA had a memorable season-long role as Samurai Apocalypse on "Californication." In 2012, RZA directed his first feature film, "The Man With the Iron Fists," which he also starred in alongside Russell Crowe in a memorable supporting role. RZA continues to direct with "Love Beats Rhyme," "Cut Throat City," and an episode of the Marvel Netflix series "Iron Fist" to his name.

Ruby Dee as Mama Lucas

In a film packed with excellent performances, Ruby Dee was the only performer nominated for an Oscar for "American Gangster," giving a standout performance as Lucas family matriarch Mama Lucas. Dee began acting all the way back in the 1940s and continued performing through 2013, before she passed away in 2014 at the age of 91. In addition to acting, Ruby Dee was a renowned poet and playwright. Her husband, Ossie Davis, was also an actor and playwright, and the two worked together on civil rights activism throughout their lives.

In an acting career that totaled 115 films and television shows, "American Gangster" arrived toward the end of Ruby Dee's tenure and was arguably her last great film. She appeared in a handful of small films following "American Gangster," such as "The Perfect Age of Rock 'n' Roll" and "Red and Blue Marbles." The largest film she acted in after "American Gangster" was the Eddie Murphy comedy "A Thousand Words," in which she played the main character's mother, who was suffering from dementia.

Carla Gugino as Laurie Roberts

In "American Gangster," Carla Gugino played Laurie Roberts, the wife of Russell Crowe's character Richie Roberts. Gugino's next film after "American Gangster" was "Righteous Kill" with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro. The following year, she took on the role of the original Silk Specter in Zack Snyder's "Watchmen." In television, she played recurring characters on the shows "Californication," "Entourage," "Wayward Pines," "Roadies," "Manhunt," "Jett," which she also executive produced, and the two Netflix original horror mini-series directed by Mike Flanagan: "The Haunting of Hill House" and "The Haunting of Bly Manor." She also starred in Flanagan's film "Gerald's Game," adapted from the Stephen King novel.

Since "American Gangster," Carla Gugino has appeared in a number of films alongside Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, including "Race to Witch Mountain," "Faster," and "San Andreas." She has also acted in the films "Sucker Punch," "The Space Between Us," and "Gunpowder Milkshake." As a voice actor, she can be heard in Zack Snyder's superhero films "Man of Steel," as Kelor, and "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" and "Zack Snyder's Justice League" as the "Ship Voice."

Cuba Gooding Jr. as Nicky Barnes

Cuba Gooding Jr. played the part of Nicky Barnes, the competing drug dealer who dilutes Frank Lucas's Blue Magic heroin. The role is somewhat of a small one in the grand scheme of things, but Gooding Jr. makes the most out of his screen time. His role as Tre Styles in "Boyz n the Hood" arrived early on in his career and put his name on the map. When he followed it up with "A Few Good Men" and "Jerry Maguire" a few years later — the latter of which earned him the Best Supporting Actor Oscar — Cuba Gooding Jr.'s career was in great shape.

By the time "American Gangster" came around, Gooding Jr.'s career had already gone through some ups and downs. Films like "Pearl Harbor," "Snow Dogs," and the blatantly homophobic "Boat Trip" had besmirched his filmography. In the years since "American Gangster," Cuba Gooding Jr.'s films have continued to be hit or miss, though he does occasionally land a good role in a highly acclaimed film like "The Butler" or "Selma." His performance as O.J. Simpson in the first season of the anthology series "American Crime Story" was considered by many to be something of a return to form for Gooding Jr. He followed that series up with a recurring role on the next season of "American Horror Story." In 2018, he made his directorial debut with "Bayou Caviar," which he also starred in and co-wrote.

Idris Elba as Tango

Idris Elba is an international superstar these days, but at the time of "American Gangster," he didn't have quite the same level of recognition. Elba played the small but memorable role of Tango, the dealer who gets shot in the head by Frank Lucas in broad daylight on a crowded street. Before "American Gangster," Elba was best known for the role of Stringer Bell on the HBO series "The Wire." This was during a time when most American audiences had no idea that Elba was British, owing to his frequent portrayal of American characters with convincing accents.

In the years since "American Gangster," Idris Elba's star power has only continued to rise both in the U.S. and around the world. Back in his home country of England, Elba appeared in films like Guy Ritchie's "RocknRolla" and the long-running detective series "Luther." On U.S. television, Elba played Charles Miner in seven episodes of the American version of "The Office," and also appeared on other television shows like "The Big C" and "Guerilla." Elba has made his way into many big-budget blockbuster films as well, including "Thor" and other Marvel Cinematic Universe films, "Pacific Rim," "Star Trek Beyond," "Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw," "Prometheus," "The Suicide Squad," "Finding Dory," and the upcoming "Sonic 2" in which he will be the voice of Knuckles. Though he often stars in massive tentpole films, Elba often does some of his best work in slightly smaller films like "Beasts of No Nation," "Molly's Game," and "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."

Common as Turner Lucas

Musician Common played Turner Lucas, one of Frank Lucas's brothers who gets involved in his criminal empire. Common, whose real name is Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., was still relatively new to acting when he appeared in "American Gangster," although he had appeared in small roles in a couple of projects beforehand such as "Smokin' Aces." Though he continues to make music — with his latest album "Let Love" released in 2019 — Common began acting more regularly after "American Gangster."

One of Common's most recognizable roles was as Cassian in "John Wick: Chapter 2," a rival assassin who can hold his own against Keanu Reeves' titular character. In television, Common's biggest role was as Elam Ferguson on the AMC series "Hell on Wheels." Outside of "John Wick," Common has appeared in other action films like "Wanted," "Terminator Salvation," "Suicide Squad," and "The Kitchen," along with dramas or thrillers such as "Now You See Me," "Selma," and "Ocean's Eight."

T.I. as Stevie Lucas

Also filling the role of one of the Lucas men was the rapper T.I., who was credited under the name Tip Harris. Stevie Lucas is younger than the other Lucases and looks up to his uncle Frank. T.I. hasn't done quite as much acting as the likes of fellow rappers RZA and Common in the aftermath of "American Gangster," though he has appeared in dozens of music videos for both his own songs and those of other musicians.

T.I. played himself on an episode of the "Entourage" TV show and again in the standalone film, but his next fictional role came in 2010's "Takers," which reunited him with his "American Gangster" co-star Idris Elba. The Starz series "Boss," starring Kelsey Grammer, provided T.I. with a recurring role as Trey Rogers. T.I. also appeared in the Jason Bateman/Melissa McCarthy comedy "Identity Thief," and the TV shows "House of Lies" and "Single Ladies." Other notable films on his resume include "Get Hard," "Ant-Man," "Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping," "Sleepless," "Dolemite Is My Name," and "Cut Throat City," the latter directed by RZA.

Kevin Corrigan as Campizi

Kevin Corrigan is a talented character actor who has popped up in more gangster films than most actors can claim, including "Goodfellas," "True Romance," "The Departed," and "Seven Psychopaths," and of course "American Gangster," where he played Campizi. He's also played a recurring character on the gangster television series "The Godfather of Harlem," a prequel series to "American Gangster" that follows the rise of Bumpy Johnson as played by Forest Whitaker, a character played by Clarence Williams III in an uncredited role in the film.

Though he might play plenty of gangsters and other assorted criminals, usually in supporting roles, he has also displayed a great talent for deadpan comedy as well with a lead role on the show "Grounded for Life" where he played Eddie, the brother of the series lead played by Donal Logue. He also played the memorable part of Professor Sean Garrity, the conspiracy theory class teacher, on three episodes of "Community." Other noteworthy films and television shows Kevin Corrigan has appeared in since "American Gangster" include "Pineapple Express," "Damages," "Fringe," "The Mentalist," "The Get Down," "Ray Donovan," and the Terrence Malick film "Knight of Cups."

Jon Polito as Rossi

Character actor Jon Polito played the part of Rossi in "American Gangster." Fans of the Coen brothers are sure to recognize Polito from his work in their films "Miller's Crossing," "Barton Fink," "The Hudsucker Proxy," "The Man Who Wasn't There," and "The Big Lebowski." Between the beginning of his career in 1981 and 2018, Jon Polito appeared in more than 220 films and television shows. His final few appearances were released posthumously after his death in 2016 of multiple myeloma at the age of 65.

The latter portion of Polito's career, in the years following "American Gangster," was largely dominated by television. He guest-starred on dozens of series, such as "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," where he played Gino, the brother of Frank (Danny DeVito), in a single, hilarious episode. Polito also played recurring characters on a number of TV shows such as "Raising the Bar," "Murder in the First," and "Modern Family."

Norman Reedus as Detective in Morgue

Norman Reedus is a massive star these days, but wasn't nearly as big of a name at the time of making "American Gangster." He wasn't a total unknown, as he had already had a breakout role in 1999's "The Boondock Saints," but his presence in "American Gangster" is small: He plays the brief role of the detective in the morgue. A sequel, "The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day," saw Reedus reprise his role as Murphy MacManus from the earlier film.

Following "American Gangster," Norman Reedus rocketed to superstardom when he landed the role of fan-favorite character Daryl Dixon on "The Walking Dead." Appearing in almost 200 episodes of the AMC zombie series has taken up a lot of time in Reedus's career, but he has also appeared in outside projects such as "Triple 9," "Vacation," and the Hideo Kojima video game "Death Stranding." Reedus has a second show on AMC as well, a docu-series which he hosts about motorcycle culture called "Ride with Norman Reedus." An upcoming "Walking Dead" spin-off is also in the works and set to star Reedus and Melissa McBride, who plays Carol on the show.