Paramount taps Zaillian to adapt Brandt book

Paramount Pictures is plotting a return to organized crime for Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. Studio has set Steve Zaillian to adapt “I Heard You Paint Houses,” the book about the mob assassin who many believe was involved in the death of Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa.

Scorsese is attached to direct. De Niro will play Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran, who is reputed to have carried out more than 25 mob murders. Pic will be produced by Scorsese and Tribeca partners De Niro and Jane Rosenthal. Project landed at Paramount through the overall deal that the studio has with Scorsese’s Sikelia Prods.

Pic’s title refers to mob slang for contract killings, and the resulting blood splatter on walls and floors. Book was written by Charles Brandt, who befriended Sheeran shortly before the latter’s death in 2003. Among the crimes Sheeran confessed to Brandt, according to the 2004 book, was the killing and dismemberment of Hoffa, carried out on orders from mob boss Russell Bufalino.

Zaillian most recently scripted the Frank Lucas crime saga “American Gangster” and was a co-writer of the Scorsese-directed “Gangs of New York.” Scorsese also brought in Zaillian to script “Schindler’s List,” before turning over the project to Steven Spielberg and instead directing De Niro in “Cape Fear.” Zaillian won an Oscar for his “Schindler’s List” script.

Scorsese just completed a screen adaptation of the Dennis Lehane novel “Shutter Island” for Paramount with Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s in the midst of settling on his next directing project, with “Silence,” “The Wolf of Wall Street” and “The Long Play” at the top of his list.

De Niro has wrapped the Kirk Jones-directed “Everybody’s Fine” with Sam Rockwell, Kate Beckinsale and Drew Barrymore. He’s also plotting a re-team with “Heat” director Michael Mann on “Frankie Machine,” an adaptation of the Don Winslow novel that is also at Paramount.

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