Mickey Rourke has signed up to star in 'The Ice Man'.

The Hollywood actor will play real-life hitman Richard 'Iceman' Kuklinski in the movie and believes it will be his defining role, like boxing movie 'Raging Bull' was for Robert De Niro.

De Niro won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of middleweight world champion Jake Lamotta in the Martin Scorsese film.

Phil Carlo - who wrote 2006 biography 'The Ice Man: Confessions of a Mafia Contract Killer' - said: "He's really looking forward to being the 'Ice Man' and I think he'll do a great job. He's talking about it being his 'Raging Bull'."

Movie producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura had held the rights to Carlo's bestseller about the convicted murderer.

However, when the agreement expired in August Carlo refused to extend the deal because di Bonaventura wanted 'Public Enemies' star Channing Tatum to play the title character.

At the time, Carlo said: "I think Mickey Rourke would be really good. He's got that sense of danger, but it's not Channing Tatum."

The US writer is thrilled to be working with Rourke instead.

He said: "We hit it off beautifully. We're producing it together. We'll shoot in the spring in New York, New Jersey and Florida."

Kuklinski claimed to have murdered 50 vagrants before he turned 18, and then another 150 as a contract killer for several Italian-American Mafia families.

Carlo explained: "Because it was bums, the police had no idea there was a serial killer on the loose. He used to use cobblestones, but he was getting gray matter on his clothes, so he stopped."

Kuklinski was finally arrested in 1986 and died in prison 20 years later, aged 70.

Carlo's novel claims he was murdered by Sammy 'The Bull' Gravano, a Mafia member turned police informant.