PEOPLE's Sexiest Man Alive buys film rights to the real-life-inspired Shantaram: A Novel

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated October 07, 2004 02:00 PM

PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive, Johnny Depp, has been hitting the books.

Depp’s Infinitum Nihil production company and Warner Bros. have paid from $1 million to $2 million for the movie rights to author Gregory David Roberts’s Shantaram: A Novel, due to be published next week, for the leading man to star in, says the Hollywood Reporter.

Depp, 41, would play the novel’s narrator, who reportedly based the book on his own experiences as an Australian prison escapee who hides out in the slums of India before taking up arms in Afghanistan with insurgents against the occupying Russians. No proposed start date has been announced.

Also in the pipeline for the star is the eccentric leading role in director Tim Burton’s remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, to be called Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (after the boy who wins a golden ticket to the candy plant). That movie is scheduled for release next year, while Pirates of the Caribbean 2 is also on the actor’s schedule.

Regarding that sequel, Depp says he hopes Rolling Stone Keith Richards joins the cast to play his character Jack Sparrow’s father. Depp had modeled his staggering swashbuckler – for which he was nominated for an Oscar this year – on the rocker.

As Depp told the BBC: “I didn’t want to do an imitation of Keith, or a character study, just a kind of salute to him, you know, to show him I appreciate him. I was thinking about the pirates of the 18th century, about how they were the rock stars of their day. So I thought: Who’s the greatest rock and roll star who ever lived? And to me, it’s Keith Richards, hands down.”