Carmen Maura has stepped in to replace Javier Bardem to play a character which has switched gender in Francis Ford Coppola's new film Tetro.

Maura will shoot for two weeks in the key supporting role as the mentor to the title character, who is played by Vincent Gallo.

Coppola made the following statement: 'I have always continued to write and edit, during the rehearsal process and as shooting evolves and the actors become their characters. To me, this makes the film come alive. One of the important characters in the script is a mentor and teacher to Tetro and I originally wrote it for a man.

'As I read and reread the script, I felt that the interaction between the two characters would be far more intriguing if they were of the opposite sex. Changing this character into a woman just seemed to make the relationship with Vincent Gallo's character more 'charged' - whenever there is an artist and his benefactor, protege and mentor.

'So with a rewrite, (and with the chemistry and raw energy brought by casting Vincent Gallo as Tetro), I made 'him' into a 'her' and am very pleased to announce that I have cast the great Spanish actress Carmen Maura in this pivotal role.

The 11-week shoot will take place principally in Buenos Aires with some scenes to be shot in Patagonia and Spain. 'I find shooting where the story takes place, rather than on a sound stage, to be exhilarating,' said Coppola. 'The location thrusts you into the culture and imparts an authenticity that can't be found on a set. Buenos Aires is alive and passionate. It is both gritty and sophisticated. I feel some of my best work has been done on location.'

Bardem added that he looks forward to working with Coppola in the future.

Maura is best known as one of Pedro Almodovar's great collaborators in films like Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown, What Have I Done To Deserve This', Law Of Desire and most recently Volver. She has worked with other great directors such as Carlos Saura, Andre Techine and Amos Gitai.