Heath Ledger and RachelWeisz have agreed to play the star-crossed lovers in an adaptation of the TimWinton novel Dirt Music, to bedirected by Phillip Noyce on home soil from March 2007.

Weisz won the Academy Award forbest actress this year for The ConstantGardener - and had her first childyesterday - while the homegrown Ledger was nominated for Brokeback Mountain.

"We have an agreement thatHanway will sell the film as they did so successfully with Rabbit Proof Fence," said Noyce, "but we are also considering otherproduction and financing partners."

He expects to raise justover $15m (A$20m) with the help of presales.

"We are trying to make afilm that is truly independent. It works well when you have distributors indifferent countries financially and emotionally attracted to making the picturesuccessful," Noyce said.

Noyce plans to shoot in theremote Admiralty Gulfand Kimberly region of Western Australia, which he describes as "arguably the most beautifulpart of Australia and certainly one of the most remote and intact".

He is producing with hisAustralian partner in production company Rumbalara, Miranda Culley. She wasborn and raised in Western Australia andurged him to secure the rights to the book.

Winton is one of Australia's most loved contemporary writers and the adaptationwas written by Justin Monjo, with Pip Karmel coming in at the end of theprocess to help out.

Noyce is currentlycompletely his latest film, Catch A Fire(formerly Hotstuff), in Sydney.