The producers of HBO were putting together a new crime drama, “Criminal Justice.” They wanted James Gandolfini in the leading role – the man who did so well as Tony Soprano in HBO’s hit ‘The Sopranos.’ However, the actor’s sudden death early this summer put the project in a stand-still. This week, however, things seem to be moving. HBO concluded a deal with the only actor they felt could take over Gandolfini’s role in the show – Robert De Niro. The Oscar-winning actor has agreed to take on the part in the show, which will resume production as soon as January.
This role will be De Niro’s first starring role on television. Though he knew Gandolfini, the issue was not simply one of stepping in for him. De Niro’s publicist, Stan Rosenfield, said that De Niro was impressed with the show’s pilot script. “Criminal Justice” is to be a mini-series. HBO plans seven hours, so it will not be a continuing series commitment for De Niro. He’ll play a lawyer who gets embroiled in a complicated murder case, set in New York. The show may be ready to air as soon as next summer.