Though it came loaded with a juicy, Oscar-potential leading man part that Johnny Depp was solidly down to play, somehow the adaptation Gregory David Roberts’ novel Shantaram just couldn’t overcome the slings and arrows of director changes and a writers’ strike and quietly faded back into the development mire somewhere around 2007. Now, however, it appears to be pulsing with fresh life, snagging Joel Edgerton as its new star.
Warner Bros. has been trying to get this one made since 2004, when it bought up the rights to Roberts’ story. With thinly veiled nods towards the writer’s own life, it follows an Australian heroin addict who escapes a maximum-security prison and heads for Bombay, where he poses as a doctor. While he does a lot of good, his path leads him to Afghanistan, where he uses his gunrunning and counterfeiting skills to fight invading Russian troops. Like we said: juicy leading man part.
Directors such as Mira Nair and, most prominently, Peter Weir have been attached to Eric Roth’s script, but the situation is currently vacant. Though Depp is no longer looking to star, he’s still on as a producer and in fact personally reached out to Edgerton to pitch him the job.
Edgerton has plenty of work lined up already, with several films in the can. He’s written The Rover and scripted/starred in Felony. He’ll also be seen in Midnight Special, Jane Got A Gun and Ridley Scott’s Exodus.