Fresh from the controversy ofhis Berlinale Silver Bear winner The Road To Guantanamo,prolific British director Michael Winterbottom is setto tackle an equally contentious project. Winterbottomrevealed this week that his company Revolution has optioned Murder In Samarkand, the memoirs of Craig Murray, the former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan.

Comedian Steve Coogan is in the frame to play Murray, who was sacked in2004 after drawing attention to torture and human rights abuses in Uzbekistan.

Murray's book, due to be published by Mainstream in June, hasalready provoked heated debate. The Foreign Office recently threatened to takelegal action for "breach of confidence or of Crown copyright" if thememoirs are published.

"The book is fantastic. It isvery, very funny," Winterbottom stated. "It alsodeals with the fact that the reason he (Murray) is no longer Ambassador is thatthe British Government was using information obtained from torture and hethought that was wrong." He likened Murray's book "to a very funny version of a Graham connects to issues like torture and extraordinary rendition and atthe same time is about a very flawed character."

Winterbottom anticipates that it will take over a year to set theCraig Murray film up. In the meantime, he is pushing ahead with his next project,Genova, aghost story set in Italy and scripted by Laurence Coriat(Wonderland). It's about two Americangirls and their British father who move to Genovaafter their mother dies.

The British director revealedthat he has now shelved plans to shoot a movie featuring Steve Coogan as a spaceman. The original plan was to use the setsfrom Danny Boyle's sci-fi epic Sunshine,shot at Three Mills Studios. "We tried to persuade (producer) Andrew Macdonaldto let us come on at night. While they did a serious film in daytime, wethought we could do a stupid comedy on their set at night," Winterbottomsaid. In the end, the two parties could not come to an agreement and theproject was abandoned.

The Road To Guantanamo will screen on Channel 4 on March 9.