Johnny Depp has signed a deal to step into the shoes of one of the most famous gangsters in US history, according to industry reports.

The Pirates Of The Caribbean star is reportedly to play John Dillinger, the notorious Depression-era bank robber famed for his graceful heists during the Public Enemy era of early 1930s America.

Variety reports that Depp met with legendary crime director Michael Mann to discuss an adaptation of Brian Burroughs' 2004 book Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34, with shooting likely to start on March 10th.

Heat helmer Mann was thought to have been considering a spot in the director's chair for the Tom Cruise-starring spy thriller Edwin A Salt, but with Depp becoming available after the shooting of his film Shantaram was postponed, Mann has turned his attention instead to the gangster thriller.

FBI director J Edgar Hoover became obsessed with catching Dillinger, at one point spending a third of the entire bureau budget on hunting the thief down.

Rumours have persisted since Dillinger's death in July 1934 – after brothel owner Ana Cumpanas wore an orange dress during a cinema visit to alert nearby FBI agents to the presence of Dillinger – that he would routinely make prank telephone calls to Hoover as well as sending the bureau chief Christmas cards.

06/12/2007 11:28:50