'It's not a biopic.' The true story behind The Last King of the Cross.

The Last King of The Cross is our most recent and possibly most expensive endeavour (an estimated $40 million) to bring Sydney's Kings Cross, circa 1980s and 1990s, to the screen. The Paramount+ production focuses on real-life nightclub tycoon John Ibrahim, the titular King.

Watch the trailer for The Last King of The Cross here. Story continues below. 

Video via Paramount+

Corruption, bribery and violence are just the tip of the iceberg for what was happening in one of Sydney’s most dangerous districts back then, but how much of the truth will they be showing in the 10 episode series?

The series follows Ibrahim, one of four sons and two daughters who migrated to Sydney in the 1970s from war-torn Lebanon.

Eldest son Hassan, also known as Sam, fell into work enforcing business owners to funnel money into the local organised crime group. While Ibrahim was dissuaded into joining the violent lifestyle Sam had become a part of, at 16 years old he was involved in an altercation that left him stabbed and in a coma for three weeks. At 18, he opened his first club in Kings Cross. It was rumoured the club was a hub for organised drug activity. 

Today, Ibrahim is a property tycoon and linked to over 17 nightclubs. The last three decades have seen him accused by the NSW Police of drug trade, extortion, and various criminal activities, however he has never been convicted for them, earning him the nickname "Teflon John" because nothing sticks.

You might recall in 2010, Underbelly took on the project on dramatising Ibrahim’s rise in The Cross in the series Underbelly: The Golden Mile. 


This new 10-part series from Paramount+ is heavily inspired by Ibrahim’s 2017 memoir, also named The Last King of The Cross. Ibrahim is directly involved with this project and is featured as a producer for the show.

The series does not hide the fact that it is a dramatisation of real people and events - expressly stating it's a "dramatisation inspired by the best-selling autobiography of John Ibrahim" and several characters and events represented "are entirely fictitious" - meaning that the violent crimes committed in the show can’t be considered a true reflection of what happened in reality... even though they very well might be. 

The series takes a lot of time to set the scene, showing the intricacies of the criminal activities prevalent in Kings Cross as well as the inherent character of 'the strip' itself and its eclectic mix of visitors. While it’s a 'dramatisation', we can assume Ibrahim took the time to breathe life into these small details plucked straight from his own memories and experience. 

Initially, the show’s timeline jumps between Lebanon in the 70s to Sydney in the 90s, covering a lot of Ibrahim’s early life.

The show takes pride in ensuring accuracy, building a to-scale replica of the strip of nightclubs that once lit up the streets in the 90s, including the iconic Kings Cross Coke sign that was built in 1974 and became known as 'The Gateway to the Cross.'

Image: Getty


Lincoln Younes, who plays Ibrahim on screen, told The Sydney Morning Herald that he is not playing the "real" Ibrahim, but a fictionalised version of him.

"John the person is enigmatic, charming, charismatic, ambitious and perfectionist. And John the character is mysterious, charismatic, intense, internal and the last bit would be, probably, volatile," he said.

"It’s not a biopic, I’m not playing him. There was an essence from his memoir that was the inspiration for the show. And there’s obviously a lot of historical markers that are touched on in the show but, for me, the exciting part was the enigma of this character, the mystique and that for such a vibrant, dangerous world, he endured in it and thrived. And from nothing, he created this kingdom."

Last King of The Cross is currently streaming on Paramount+.

Feature Image: Paramount+/Getty.

Can’t live without your phone or the internet? Take our survey now and you go in the running to win a $100 gift voucher!