Oasis frontman acts the gangster as he signals career switch

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For a man who once publicly admitted carrying out burglaries and stealing car radios, Liam Gallagher's latest incarnation sounds like a role sent from heaven.

For a man who once publicly admitted carrying out burglaries and stealing car radios, Liam Gallagher's latest incarnation sounds like a role sent from heaven.

The Oasis singer is poised to make his big screen debut in a movie as one of his home town's most notorious criminals, a convicted Salford gangland boss.

Gallagher is understood to have held meetings in Scotland with the makers of a £1.2m film about the convicted gunrunner Paul Ferris, in which Robert Carlyle is widely expected to take the lead role.

Gallagher's role is of Paul Massey, a Ferris associate who is serving a 14-year stretch at the Frankland Prison, Co Durham, after stabbing a rival in the groin, severing an artery and leaving him for dead.

Ferris' biographer, Reg McKay, confirmed the singer, aged 32, had expressed interest in the role. He added that Massey, who was extradited to Britain from Amsterdam after leaving Manchester after the stabbing, was enthusiastic about Gallagher's involvement. "He believes he has the menace and the presence [to play him] and, even better, he is a Manchester boy," Mr McKay said.

Gallagher's enthusiasm about tasting the film success enjoyed by his ex-wife, Patsy Kensit, may have been nurtured by a close friendship that he and his brother Noel share with the Welsh actor, Rhys Ifans. It has already prompted reports of his interest in a role in The Manana Man, another British film based on James Birrell's novel, which focuses on the effect a death has on a group of friends.

If the critical response to Ferris' biography was anything to go by, the Massey role will be the more controversial of the two. Such was the indignation about Ferris cashing in on his criminal past that questions about the book - The Ferris Conspiracy - were raised in the Scottish parliament.

Ferris survived years in Glasgow's gangland by working for Arthur Thompson, one of its most notorious crime lords. After one of Scotland's longest-running criminal trials, he was later acquitted of killing Arthur Thompson Jnr, his boss' son. But he later served a seven- year jail sentence for selling sub-machine guns and has had a reported £30,000 price on his head from former associates.

Robert Carlyle's discussions with the film's backers - including the London-based BMG, who are said to have paid Ferris a six-figure sum - were held at Glasgow's Devonshire Gardens Hotel in January. Ferris said Carlyle "asked me if it would glamorise violence".

The film star was told it would not. "The film is about keeping it real. It's about bullying I suffered as a youngster and police corruption," said Ferris.

The Massey part in the film - which goes under the working title of The Apprentice - would cast Gallagher as a man who, 13 years ago, was branded a "Mr Big" in Salford's council chamber, where he became the subject of discussions about civil disturbances. Paul Massey vehemently denied suggestions he was linked with local unrest and threatened to sue if the claims were repeated.

But his track record also reveals some subtleties that may appeal to Gallagher. In his determination to keep heroin off the Salford estates, Massey once had stickers put on lampposts warning smack dealers that they risked being "smacked". His clout has been recognised by criminal gangs in Britain and in the past he has been called in to mediate between feuding factions.

The ultimate test for Gallagher, a Manchester City fan, will be sticking to Massey's footballing stripes. The convict is a Manchester United fan and, wears their colours with pride.

Singers turned actors

ELVIS PRESLEY

Starred in 31 films between 1956 and 1969, a number of which were tied in with his singles. The films were a box office success but did not receive critical appreciation, and reviews condemned him as a singer who should have stuck to doing what he did best

STING

Landed his debut acting role as Ace in Quadrophenia in 1979. He went on to appear in Dennis Potter's Brimstone and Treacle, and appeared in the 1984 film Dune, as well as Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in 1998, with some credit

CHER

She became one of the most successful singers to turn to acting. Her role in Mask in 1984 was received to great critical acclaim and she was awarded the Cannes Film Festival best actress prize, followed by an Academy Award for her part in Moonstruck

MADONNA

Following a well-received debut in Desperately Seeking Susan, she embarked on a run of big-screen disasters, earning five Golden Raspberry awards for worst actress including worst actress of the century. She had some success in Evita

EMINEM

Starting out as a rapper, he starred in the film, 8 Mile in 2002, a semi-autobiographical tale of a young rapper. While his acting surprised the critics and the film was a box office hit, some reviews felt it was just another fictionalised star biopic

DOLLY PARTON

She turned to acting in the Eighties, most notably and successfully with the hit, 9 to 5. She also appeared in films including the Burt Reynolds musical, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1982 and the comedy, Rhinestone, two years later

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