Pedro and Agustin Almodovar's El Deseo production company has optioned film rights to French novel Tarantula, marking it as a potential next project for the director and igniting local speculation that this may well be the project that will re-unite Almodovar with Spanish acting superstars Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz.

The potential teaming of Banderas and Cruz was something Almodovar hinted at last year when he received the Academy Award for All About My Mother (Todo Sobre Mi Madre) from the hands of the two stars (see picture above). Their names had also been linked for a short while to Talk To Her (Hable Con Ella), the director's latest project which has just begun shooting in Spain.

Such a collaboration would bring together Spain's three most internationally recognised film figures. Local reports say Banderas revealed that the three are planning to make Tarantula next year, describing the obscure novel as the story of a plastic surgeon who takes revenge on his daughter's rapist by giving him a forced sex-change operation.

A source at El Deseo confirmed optioning the rights, saying that the novel "is something [Almodovar] would like to adapt for cinema" but that there are as yet no definitive plans or casting.

Indeed, the director seems to prefer developing several potential projects simultaneously before settling on or announcing one, as he did last year with English-language The Paperboy, semi-autobiographical La Mala Educacion and, finally, Talk To Her.

Furthermore, it is unlikely that the company would officially announce a future project while production is in full swing on the $5m Talk To Her, the writer-director's fourteenth feature film. Talk To Her centres on four love-challenged characters: a female bullfighter, played by Spanish singer Rosario Flores; a beautiful but injured dancer, played by Leonor Watling (Sound Of The Sea); a male nurse, played by Javier Camara (Havana Quartet); and an Argentine journalist, played by Dario Grandinetti (Tangos Are For Two).

Shooting with cast began this week and will last through mid-September. A stellar supporting cast includes Geraldine Chaplin, Fele Martinez, Paz Vega, Roberto Alvarez, Loles Leon, Chus Lampreave and, quite possibly, Marisa Paredes. Good Machine International is handling world rights. Pathe has acquired rights for the UK, France and Benelux.