SHANTARAM–a new film to star Johnny Depp!

Deppheads received a delightful surprise today when the Hollywood Reporter and Variety both announced that Warner Brothers, Initial Entertainment Group, Plan B, and Johnny’s own production company, Infinitum Nihil, have acquired film rights to Gregory David Roberts’ SHANTARAM: A NOVEL. The book, which is based on the life experiences of its author, is already a bestseller in Australia and will be published in the U.S. next week by St. Martin’s Press. Warner Brothers and its partners paid $2 million to secure this star vehicle for Johnny; Variety reports the deal is one of the biggest of the year. Johnny will play the leading role and will produce the film, along with Brad Grey of Plan B and Graham King of Initial. Gregory David Roberts will adapt his novel for the screen. No director has been announced. Warner Bros. will handle domestic distribution, and IEG will have foreign distribution rights.

Johnny’s character is, according to Variety, “an Australian heroin addict convicted of robbery. He escapes from a maximum-security prison and flees to India and reinvents himself as a doctor in the slums of Bombay. He gets involved in counterfeiting, smuggling and gunrunning, which leads him to Afghanistan, where he and a mob boss battle the Russians.” There is also a beautiful woman, the Swiss-American expatriate Karla, complicating the hero’s predicament. Publishers Weekly stresses the romantic element of SHANTARAM: “Lin’s love for Karla–and her mysterious inability to love in return–gives the book its central tension.” The story seems to have everything–romance, intrigue, danger, mystery, and a philosophical edge to deepen the adventure. Amazon says, “This huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.”

Warner Brothers and IEG put a $2 million bid on the table to secure the rights “primarily because of Depp,” Variety reports, “who told Grey about his love for the book.” Grey and Warner Brothers are currently producing CATCF and are obviously eager to continue their relationship with Johnny–a great compliment to a great actor. Thanks to Sleepy for breaking this story, and to Newbie and Part-Time Poet for contributing additional material. You can read the full articles from the Hollywood Reporter and Variety on the News & Views forum. Look there, too, for the Publishers Weekly and Amazon reports of SHANTARAM’s plot–but beware, that thread has spoilers.

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