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Hollywood star Jeremy Renner in line to play IRA ‘Blanket man' and Brinks-MAT heist mastermind Sam Millar in film

Bourne Legacy star Jeremy Renner is being tipped to play 'Blanket man' turned robber Sam Millar. Picture by Press Association

BOURNE star Jeremy Renner is being lined up to play IRA `blanket man' and Brinks-MAT robber Sam Millar with an Oscar-winning production company turning the best-selling novelist's acclaimed memoir into a film.

Focus Features, which produced Brokeback Mountain and Traffic, has already begun work on the project.

Based on Millar's best-selling book On the Brinks, which has been translated into 15 different languages, the film is expected to have a worldwide release.

Millar spent eight years in prison and took part in the blanket protest at the Maze prison before fleeing to the US under an assumed identity where he built a new life as a family man and comic book shop owner.

However, he became involved in an underworld of illegal gambling and gangsters and masterminded one of the most daring and successful bloodless heists in US history - the Brinks-MAT robbery.

He was eventually pardoned by President Bill Clinton and returned to Belfast, settling down to life as a successful crime fiction author.

Millar said he had been negotiating the movie deal for "at least two years", with high-powered executives flying into Belfast for meetings and the author travelling to Dublin and London for others.

However, the 60-year-old, who now lives in north Belfast, feared a Hollywood ending had slipped through his fingers after a telephone call from America yesterday with "bad news".

"I was told to expect confirmation on St Paddy's Day as they wanted to give it to me as a St Paddy's Day gift. But they called me this morning and said it was bad news," he told The Irish News.

"I thought they had dropped the whole thing, but they were just saying that somebody had leaked it to the Hollywood Reporter."

Millar, now a best-selling crime-fiction author, said there have already been high-level discussions about which star would play him in the film.

"They're talking about the guy who is in the Avengers, Jeremy Renner, because he has the same sort of cheeky attitude as me, we both have that attitude," he said.

"It's not going to be like Rambo, It's going to be treated right. I have a bit of a say. I'm not having the IRA regarded as terrorists or any nonsense like that."

And there are plans for a graphic novel based on the film to be released almost simultaneously.

However, it won't be on cinema screens just yet with production due to start next month in Dublin and London.

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