According to Variety, Universal Pictures and director Terry George are courting Don Cheadle to star in American Gangster for Imagine.

An offer won't be made to Cheadle for Gangster until George completes the script, but the studio and producer Brian Grazer want the thesp.

The pic nearly went into production with Denzel Washington in the role, but the project was halted over budget concerns. George was hired in March to rework Steve Zaillian's script to a more manageable budget.

Cheadle would play Frank Lucas, a Harlem heroin kingpin in the 1970s who, after he was brought to justice, helped end the corruption and legal loopholes that allowed him to import the drug from Southeast Asia.