Charlton Heston has joined the cast of Papa Alguem 5555, a movie about a Nazi war criminal who lives in hiding in Brazil. Adapted from a controversial novel by German author Peter Schneider, the Italian-Brazilian-Hungarian film is currently shooting in Rio de Janeiro.

The movie, which is set in 1977 and directed by Italy's Egidio Eronico, stars Heston in the lead role as Josef Mengele, an unrepentant and unpunished German war criminal who lives in hiding in Belem, in northern Brazil. German actor Thomas Kretschmann plays Mengele's 35-year-old son who travels to Belem to meet his father for the first time and confront him about his war atrocities.

The $2m drama (4.3bln Italian lire), whose title derives from the name of the street where Mengele and his son first meet, is produced by Gherardo Pagliei of Rome's Gam Film and co-produced by Brazil's Total Entertainment and Hungary's Focus Film.

Scripted by Eronico, Carpi, Antonella Grassi and Shneider, Papa Alguem 5555 is based on the German author's controversial fictional reworking of Josef Mengele's letters and diaries. The film, which shoots for 10 weeks in Rio, Manaus (Brazil) and Germany, also features F. Murray Abraham (Finding Forrester), in the role of a Jewish lawyer.

Heston, who turned 77 last week and whose lengthy credits include 1967's The Planet Of The Apes and sword-and-sandal epics Ben-Hur and Anthony And Cleopatra, can currently be seen on the big screen in a cameo in Tim Burton's new version of Planet Of The Apes.