Jones riding herd on ranch pic

'Burials' skedded to begin shooting in September

Tommy Lee Jones is set to topline and make his feature helming debut on indie pic “The Three Burials of Malquides Estrada.” Script was penned by “21 Grams” and “Amores perros” scribe Guillermo Arriaga.

Storyline is being kept under close wraps, but insiders say the pic is set in a small town along the West Texas border and follows a American ranch foreman whose effort keep a promise to one of his illegal migrant workers reveals terrible and secret crimes.

Jones hails from the central Texas town of San Saba and operates a working cattle ranch there that will be used for many shots in the film.

Pic’s budget is not clear, but several insiders say it will likely be at least a $15 million shoot, skedded to begin this September. Luc Besson’s French foreign sales outfit Europa is financing the pic.

“Burials” is being produced by Michael Fitzgerald (“The Pledge”), who recently produced “Colour Me Kubrick” — a pic based on the true story of a man who successfully posed as director Stanley Kubrick during the production of “Eyes Wide Shut.”

Jones has directed once before, though not a theatrical feature: In 1995, he starred in, helmed and adapted Elmer Kelton’s novel “The Good Old Boys” as a telepic that aired on cabler TNT.

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