'Babel' scribe Arriaga ready to direct

Charlize Theron will star in “The Burning Plain,” a drama that marks the feature directing debut of “Babel” screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga.

Financed by 2929 Productions, the drama will shoot in November. Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald will produce. Theron will exec produce the film, along with 2929’s Marc Butan, Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban. Beth Kono will be co-producer.

Arriaga told Daily Variety that after 11 years of scripting, it was time to write one for himself to direct. Much like his past scripts, “The Burning Plain” consists of thematically connected storylines.

“There are very intense love stories here that take place in different places and times, with characters trying to find the healing powers of love, forgiveness and redemption,” Arriaga said.Theron will play the role of Sylvia, who tries to find common ground with her parents after a turbulent childhood.

Arriaga is best known for a long collaboration with director Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu on “Amores perros,” “21 Grams” and “Babel,” and he also scripted the Tommy Lee Jones-directed “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.” Arriaga has directed TV and documentaries, and started his career directing stage plays when he was a teenager.

“The approach to storytelling is so specifically Guillermo,” Parkes said. “He helped create a new way of telling stories, and he’s taken that to a new level with this script.”

2929 prexy Butan said there is no timetable to set distribution for a film that will cost under $20 million.

“Our plan is to back talent we believe in and while Guillermo is a first time filmmaker, he’s such an accomplished writer with a unique voice that it was a natural move for him to direct,” said 2929 prexy Butan.

Theron next stars in the Paul Haggis-directed “In the Valley of Elah.”

Parkes and MacDonald just completed “The Kite Runner” and “Sweeney Todd.”

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