Serious actor Johnny Depp, having worshiped at the feet of Marlon Brando while making Don Juan DeMarco, has signed on for another master class. Depp will costar with Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco, a Mob flick to be directed by Four Weddings and a Funeral's Mike Newell in New York this February. Depp is to play Brasco, an FBI agent who infiltrates a Mafia enclave only to find himself drawn into a friendship with Pacino's mobster. Based on a true story, the script is by Homicide creator Paul Attanasio, who was nominated for an Oscar earlier this year for Quiz Show.
The project also presents an opportunity for Newell, who's been a hot name since Four Weddings hit in 1994. The unexpected success ''allows me to step up to another table,'' says Newell of his first foray into A-list filmmaking. ''It would be stupid, really, not to.''
Though Pacino was cast before Newell signed on, the Brit director helped reel in Depp, whose depth impresses him. ''He's never played the same part twice,'' notes Newell, who's also a fan of Depp's regular-guy performance in the thriller Nick of Time, which debuts Nov. 22: ''For the first time he plays it absolutely straight. No Spanish accent, no scissors at the end of his fingers.'' Newell adds that in Brasco the actor will be playing another ''very different kind of a role a working-class, New Jersey Italian.'' With maybe a .38 at the end of his fingers.