According to Variety, Peter Weir will direct Shantaram, the Warner Bros. adaptation of the Gregory David Roberts novel that will star Johnny Depp.

Weir will develop the script with Eric Roth. WB hopes to begin production late next year.

The pic is being produced by Initial Entertainment Group's Graham King along with Depp's Infinitum Nihil banner and Plan B's Brad Pitt.

When negotiations are complete, Weir -- who last directed Russell Crowe in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World -- will take on a tale with the political and wartime tensions reminiscent of his early efforts like "The Year of Living Dangerously" and "Gallipoli."

The protagonist is an Australian heroin addict who escapes a maximum-security prison and reinvents himself in India as a doctor in the slums of Bombay. His attempt to find medicine for his destitute patients leads him into counterfeiting, gunrunning and smuggling.

WB execs envisioned an epic pic when they agreed to pay $2 million for worldwide rights to the novel last year.

Deal marked the first project bought for Depp to star in and produce since he berthed his Infinitum Nihil banner with King's Initial Entertainment Group.

Novel, published by St. Martin's Press, is said to be based partly on the author's own adventures.