Deadline reports that De Niro is attached to appear in the seven-hour miniseries, taking over the role originally played by the “Sopranos” star in the pilot. Gandolfini will remain an executive producer, posthumously, on the project, however. De Niro joins originally cast Riz Ahmed, Bill Camp, Payman Maadi and Poorna Jagannathan. Production is expected to begin in March 2014.
After giving “Criminal Justice” the green light as a limited series in May, it wasn’t clear whether the project would move forward after Gandolfini’s sudden June death, but because the beloved actor has been so committed and passionate about the series, HBO and exec producer Steven Zailian worked to find a way to complete the project in his honor.
The story centers on an ambulance-chasing New York City attorney (the role originated by Gandolfini in the pilot) who finds himself in over his head when he takes on the case of a Pakistani (Ahmed) who’s been accused of murdering a girl on the Upper West Side. Though the lawyer character is central the the story as a whole, he only appears in the final scene of the pilot, paving the way to consider recasting. Seeking a great actor whom Gandolfini would have wanted for the part and who could honor the late actor, HBO and Zailian composed a list of only one name, Deadline says. Luckily, De Niro responded and came aboard.
Do you think De Niro will make a suitable replacement for Gandolfini in “Criminal Justice”?