Mexican director Alfonso Arau (Like Water For Chocolate) is set to direct $16m mini-series The Magnificent Ambersons for Italy's DeAngelis Group and US cable network A&E which has signed on to co-produce the project.

Arau replaces Herbert Ross (Steel Magnolias) who was forced to pull out. Principal photography is scheduled to start August 15 in Ireland. No cast is yet attached.

DeAngelis Group confirmed it is in "advanced talks" with RAI for free TV rights for Italy and with Germany's Beta, which would acquire rights for several European territories. A&E has North American rights.

The two-part English-language project will be based on Orson Welles' original script about ambition and redemption in a wealthy American family. "We are honoured to be working from [Welles'] original masterpiece script," said DeAngelis vice president of international production Daniela Gazzini. "We also believe that choosing Arau is important because he brings a style and dramatic sensibility to the project that is not American - much less turn-of-the-century American - just as Orson Welles was not typically American."

Technical crew on the project include leading British DoP Kenneth MacMillan (Henry V) and editor Ray Lovejoy (Batman).

The DeAngelis Group also recently completed principal photography in South Africa on Diamond Hunters, a two-part mini-series starring Roy Scheider and Alyssa Milano, which is being co-produced by Film Afrika Worldwide.