Robert De Niro has been appointed as the lead actor in the upcoming HBO mini-series Criminal Justice, a seven-episode stretch that the late James Gandolfini was initially slated to star in. The passing of Gandolfini had left the project in limbo, however with the appointment of De Niro the show will continue to air as planned.

Robert De NiroJames Gandolfini
De Niro will now star in the crime drama in place of Gandolfini

HBO confrimed De Niro's appointment to The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday, 25 September, adding that Gandolfini will be given a posthumous executive producer credit on the show. The mini-series is an American adaption of the hit 2008 BBC series of the same name, which was the brainchild Peter Moffat and starred Ben Whishaw and the late Pete Postlethwaite. The HBO version, which is being made in association association with BBC Worldwide Production, of the show will be initially directed by Steven Zaillian, with others stepping in as the series progresses. Moffat will serve as an executive producer on the HBO series.

The series was declined by HBO in February this year, however the network reconsidered the pilot episode and commissioned it on a limited run in May. Gandolfini's death in June this year again put the project back on the shelf, but with De Niro on board the series will continue with it's limited run. Riz Ahmed, Bill Camp, Payman Maadi and Poorna Jagannathan will also star.

The show will follow small-time injury-claims lawyer Jack Stone (De Niro), who is hired to defend a young man accused of murdering a girl in New York's Upper West Side. It will differ from the original series, which followed a different, individual murder case with each week, using a rotating cast crew for each episode. No mention of when the show is due to air was given by HBO.

Pete Postlethwaite
The late Pete Postlethwaite appeared in the original BBC series