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Hiccup for Johnny Depp's Mumbai movie

June 20, 2006 10:39 IST

The big budget Johnny Depp film Shantaram has no captain, after director Peter Weir (Master and Commander) quit the project over the weekend.

But Warner Bros and Depp, Hollywood insiders say, are determined to shoot the film in Mumbai early next year.

Depp, who is also a producer of the movie based on an autobiographical novel of the same name, is playing the title character of an Australian fugitive who finds some kind of redemption and peace in India.

The New York Post also reported that Weir and Depp -- who has worked with some of Hollywood's most interesting directors including Tim Burton (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) -- had creative differences.

An urgent search for an A-list director to bring the thriller to the big screen is currently on.

Meanwhile, Chunky Pandey and Emily Watson stay attached to the production. The casting was to be completed by the end of August, but now it might be delayed by few more weeks.

The movie, based on an international bestseller by Gregory David Roberts, is expected to move to Spain and Australia after the Indian shoot.

At least half of its cast is expected to be Indians. "I know there is a lot of good talent in Bollywood," Roberts had told in an interview a couple of years ago. "We will be looking at them, and surely we will also look out for new talents."

Gregory David Roberts: 'I found a lot of love in India'

Shantaram is one of the half a dozen high profile films including a screen bio of math genius Srinivasa Ramanujan that are scheduled to be shot in India in the next 12 months.

Francis Ford Coppola's film Youth Without Youth, based on a novella by Romanian philosopher Mircea Eliade who studied Sanskrit and yoga in Calcutta, is also to be made in India. 

The story of Shantaram centres around an Australian drug addict who escapes from a maximum security prison, starts a life as a doctor in Mumbai's slums even though he was not qualified to be a physician, and is drawn into crime. In no time he lands in one of the more notorious prisons in India, and months later becomes a gun-runner and counterfeiter. His misadventures include fighting Russians in Afghanistan. And his nightmares include a stint in a German prison meant for terrorists.

According to Hollywood insiders, Weir quit the film because of creative differences with the producers, Warner Bros. It is also believed that the initial $90 million budget for the film was ballooning.

Weir's highly acclaimed Master and Commander starring Russel Crowe cost $150 million and barely broke even, even after DVD sales.  

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