The lead role has been given to a non-actor

Jamal Woolard, a Brooklyn-based rapper, will play Biggie Smalls, aka Notorious BIG, in a forthcoming biopic about the late rapper.

Smalls was a huge star in the 90s, and died of gunshot wounds in Los Angeles in 1997. His killer has never been caught.

The biopic, which will be titled ‘Notorious’, is scheduled to be released in January 2009, with production beginning this month, reports Billboard.

Actors Derek Luke, Angela Bassett and Anthony Mackie have also landed roles in the film, playing P Diddy, Smalls’ mother and Tupac Shakur respectively.

Film executives auditioned over 100 rappers going for the part of Smalls before casting Woolard, who has no previous experience of acting. Bosses said they wanted an authentic rapper rather than an established actor to play the part.