Helmer exits Depp starrer

Director Peter Weir has ankled “Shantaram,” the Warner Bros. adaptation of the Gregory David Roberts novel.

The helmer’s exit came shortly after the studio received a Weir-supervised rewrite from Eric Roth.

While several sources said Weir and star Johnny Depp, who also produces with Graham King, were unable to get on the same page and decided the pairing wasn’t meant to be, a WB spokesman claimed the conflict had been broader than that.

“Peter moved on from this film because his interpretation of it differed greatly than that of the studio and producers,” the spokesman said.

Warners has just begun talking to directors to replace Weir but remains optimistic that production will start by spring 2007. Scouting has already occurred in India, Spain and the U.K.

Depp is still expected to star as an Australian heroin addict who escapes a maximum-security prison, reinvents himself as a doctor in the slums of India and winds up a gun-runner and counterfeiter who fights against invading Russian troops in Afghanistan.

While Depp has brought daring performance styles to films like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” he is even more creatively staked to “Shantaram.” It was, after all, his enthusiasm that prompted King and Warners to mobilize a $2 million deal for the 944-page book published by St. Martin’s Press.

Depp’s Infinitum Nihil is producing with King’s Initial Entertainment Group.

Weir seemed an ideal choice given his easygoing manner while mounting big scale offshore-set dramas like “The Year of Living Dangerously” and “Master and Commander.”

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