HBO's 'Criminal Justice': Robert De Niro to Replace James Gandolfini

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Angela Weiss / Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images

Among the scope of the tragedy that was 'Sopranos' star James Gandolfini's passing in recent months, we had to wonder what would become of Gandolfini's HBO series 'Criminal Justice.' Now, it seems HBO has swapped one legendary Hollywood mobster for another, as Robert De Niro will step in to fill the role first occupied by James Gandolfini to get 'Criminal Justice' on to television.

Deadline first reported the news of De Niro's casting, adding that producers had only considered moving forward with an actor who would honor Gandolfini's commitment and passion for the project, preferably De Niro. Gandolfini will retain an honorary posthumous executive producer's credit, having worked diligently to bring the project to life and planned to begin filming after the Rome vacation that saw his passing.

Adapted from an award-winning 2008 BBC series, the Americanized ‘Criminal Justice’ was to feature Gandolfini as Jack Stone, a “downtrodden jailhouse attorney who frequents police stations for clients.” In his search, the character encounters Naz (Rizwan Ahmed), an American-born Pakistani with no memory of his accused crime of stabbing to death a young woman he’d met.

Having shot this November, the pilot also co-stars Bill Camp as Box, Peyman Moadi as Salim Kahn and Poorna Jagannathan as Safar Kahn, Naz’s parents. ‘Schindler’s List’ Oscar-winning writer Steven Zaillian both directed and co-wrote the pilot, with Oscar-nominee Richard Price. Gandolfini's initial role only saw the actor appear toward the end of the pilot, the scenes of which will now be re-shot to feature De Niro in the part. The network originally passed on the pilot, but later decided to move forward with the project as a limited seven-episode series.

What say you? Will Robert De Niro honor James Gandolfini's memory by taking over 'Criminal Justice' for him? Should the project have been scrapped after the 'Sopranos' star's passing?

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