Two of Spain's hottest properties, Antonio Banderas and Penelope Cruz, are likely to co-star in Tarantula, a futuristic film noir by director Pedro Almodovar.

Producer Agustin Almodovar was quoted in Cannes this weekend confirming that the long-mooted project (see Screendaily July 10, 2001) would star Banderas and Cruz.

Tarantula, the story of a plastic surgeon in the year 2010 or 2015, who takes revenge on his daughter's rapist by giving him a forced sex-change operation, is based on a French novel to which the Almodovar brothers optioned rights more than a year ago through their production outfit El Deseo.

However, Tarantula may not necessarily be Almodovar's next project. The director is understood to be putting finishing touches this summer on two of the three scripts he currently has in development: a comedy title; Tarantula and La Mala Educacion, a semi-autobiographical story about two boys in Spain's Catholic school system in the 1960's and 1970's. And as recently as February, Agustin Almodovar cited Educacion as the director's next movie.

Difficulties casting the two young leads was said to have delayed Educacion, which at one point was expected to shoot even before Almodovar's recently released Talk To Her (Hable Con Ella). There is also speculation that scheduling conflicts for Banderas and Cruz could push Tarantula back.

The project would also require a more complicated and financing structure with the two high-profile actors attached.

In contrast, Educacion could be set up like Talk To Her, a 100% El Deseo production with a modest Euros 6.5m budget. Talk To Her was sold internationally outside select territories by the former Good Machine International.

Tarantula would mark a return to local-language fare for Hollywood regulars Banderas and Cruz, both of whom jump-started their international careers in Almodovar films - Banderas in 1988's Oscar-nominated Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown and Cruz in 1999's Oscar-winner All About My Mother.