Par puts De Niro back on mob scene

Thesp returns to the Mafia fold with 'Frankie'

Robert De Niro could be returning to his Mafia roots.

Thesp is attached to star in the adaptation of Don Winslow’s yet-to-be-published “The Winter of Frankie Machine.” Paramount Pictures has acquired the project with De Niro and Jane Rosenthal’s Tribeca Films aboard to produce.

De Niro would play a Mafia hit man who has given up the game to become the proprietor of a bait shop. When he finds out that he’s been targeted for a hit, he gets back in the business.

Winslow’s work made the rounds in New York recently, sparking the interest of Tribeca. De Niro and Rosenthal committed to the adaptation and, with the help of CAA, shopped it around to studios.

If the package comes together and a movie gets made, it would bring De Niro back to a type of character that helped make him famous. He has said he wouldn’t return to the Mafia world in film but then “Frankie Machine” came along.

“He did say that (he wouldn’t play a Mafia character),” Rosenthal told Daily Variety. “But along came Don Winslow, who created a perfect character. The lesson here is, never say never.”

Brad Weston and Marc Evans are overseeing at Par. No writer is yet aboard to adapt. Book is expected to hit shelves in 2006 from Knopf.

Winslow’s previous works include the books “Cool Breeze on the Underground,” “California Fire and Life,” “The Power of the Dog” and “Agent in Harm’s Way.”