Towers of ‘Babel’

After third collaboration, Gonzalez Iñarritu and Arriaga go solo

MEXICO CITY — The Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu/Guillermo Arriaga formula was first defined by “Amores perros,” transcribed into English with “21 Grams” and now goes global with “Babel,” filmed on three continents and in four languages.

For the writer-director tandem, “Babel” completes a trilogy. It also marks the end of their working relationship, at least for the time being.

People close to the filmmakers say a spat over credits on “Babel” drove a spike between Arriaga and Gonzalez Inarritu during pre-production. Since then, Gonzalez Inarritu has been consumed by the shoot and readying the film for its competition slot at Cannes while Arriaga has mounted his own production company, La Neta Films.

While both remain politely respectful of the other’s work, the two aren’t currently planning any joint projects.

Gonzalez Inarritu denies there was any rift, and Arriaga plays down any differences as well.

“Collaborations always have difficult moments,” Arriaga says. “Anyone who has collaborated with anyone knows this. There are no more projects right now. It doesn’t mean there are problems … But after nine years of collaboration, both of us want to explore new ways and new things.”

Arriaga made his first independent move with the critically acclaimed “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” an original screenplay he wrote for director-star Tommy Lee Jones. Now he is swamped: He is working on two screenplays for two Hollywood studios and trying to finish a novel while also overseeing the editing and post on “El bufalo de la noche” (The Night Buffalo), his first effort as a producer.Pic is based on his novel of the same name and stars Diego Luna plus a host of new discoveries. There is also the book tour in June for the English edition of “The Night Buffalo” (Simon & Schuster’s Atria Books).

The second pic lined up by La Neta will be “Desde alla,” written by Venezuelan Lorenzo Vigas, who will also direct. Arriaga is additionally looking to make his directorial debut next year with his original screenplay, “El sol de los venandos,” on which he is still toiling.

“I want to define my career as a producer as someone willing to take risks, willing to work with new actors, new directors, to help refresh the Mexican cinema,” Arriaga asserts.

While Arriaga’s new path is laid out, Gonzalez Inarritu is reticent to discuss his next step.

“The next thing is a rest,” he says. “I can’t do a film every year.”

Gonzalez Inarritu says he will remain focused on producing his own work: “I have so many things going on right now; I am very exited about some of them, but the moment you speak of them, they tend to fall apart.”

As for following fellow Mexican crossover Alfonso Cuaron into doing studio pics, Gonzalez Inarritu is open, but not champing at the bit.

“To direct a film is a very lonely job, and to produce it and develop and make all your own decisions, it is very difficult,” he says. “At some point I would love to find a script that is great and that I believe in. Maybe it can be fun. It hasn’t happened yet.”

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