Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu to write, direct film

Javier Bardem will star in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Biutiful,” the Mexican helmer’s first project after his much-publicized bust-up with former screenwriting partner Guillermo Arriaga.

Spanish-language urban thriller, which Gonzalez Inarritu wrote, shoots on location in Barcelona next week.

Rodrigo Prieto boards pic as director of photography while two-time Oscar winner Gustavo Santaolalla will compose soundtrack. Argentina’s Maricel Alvarez and Spanish thesp Ruben Ochandiano play opposite Bardem.

Pic is about a man embroiled in shady dealings who is confronted by a childhood friend, now a policeman.

Arriaga and Gonzalez Inarritu were Mexico’s most successful filmmaking duo, starting with their breakout hit “Amores perros” in 2000 and the subsequent leap into Hollywood with English-language pics “21 Grams” and “Babel” that formed a trilogy.

Quibbles over writing credits on the three films came to a head with “Babel” when Arriaga was reportedly shut out from attending its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006.

“Biutiful” will be co-produced by Fernando Bovaira’s Mod shingle and Cha Cha Cha, Gonzalez Inarritu’s three-way partnership with Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo del Toro.

Cha Cha Cha is a $100 million, five-feature production partnership with financing, distribution and international sales handled by Universal Pictures and Focus Features Intl.

Arriaga recently helmed “The Burning Plain,” based on his own screenplay, starring Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival.

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