Helmer Michael Mann has cut a deal at Paramount Pictures to develop “Frankie Machine” as a star vehicle for Robert De Niro.

De Niro and Jane Rosenthal produce through their Tribeca Films shingle. Alex Tse has just been set to do a major overhaul of the concept under Mann’s supervision.

The drama is an adaptation of Don Winslow novel “The Winter of Frankie Machine.” De Niro will play Frank Machianno, a mob hitman who has retired to run a bait shop. He agrees to help the son of a mob boss resolve a dispute with another Mafioso but is forced to turn into Frankie Machine again when he realizes he’s been set up to be killed.

De Niro came aboard the project when Paramount bought the book (Daily Variety, Nov. 14, 2005). A draft was original written by Brian Koppelman and David Levien.

De Niro has of late eschewed playing the mobsters that defined his early career but made an exception after he read the Winslow novel well before it was published. De Niro and Mann previously teamed for 1995’s “Heat.”

Mann, who last directed “Miami Vice,” just made a deal at Columbia Pictures for “Empire,” a John Logan-scripted drama that will star Will Smith (Daily Variety, Oct. 11).