Lord Of The Rings star Viggo Mortensen is in negotiations to take the lead in big budget Spanish production The Adventures Of Captain Alatriste for Spain's Telecinco and Origen PC.

Mortensen, who speaks fluent Spanish, confirmed to Spanish press during a promotional trip to Madrid on Hidalgo that he was studying the project.

Another hot Spanish-speaking actor, Bad Education's Gael Garcia Bernal, has also been rumored to be in talks to co-star as Inigo Balboa, sidekick to the 17th century adventurer.

The $20m-plus Alatriste is based on the character created by best-selling author Arturo Perez-Reverte (The Ninth Gate). Agustin Diaz Yanes (Don't Tempt Me) wrote the script and will direct the film, likely not to roll until 2005. Co-producers could be sought depending on the casting closed.

Meanwhile Diaz Yanes also adapted another Perez-Reverte novel, La Reina Del Sur, for Spain's Plural Entertainment, which is understood to be seeking a US co-producer to shoot the Mexican-set narco-trafficking epic in English. Mexico's Televisa co-produces.