The actor will head up the cast of Gabriele Salvatores’ upcoming English language project about the Siberian criminal underworld.

Actor John Malkovich has signed on to star in Italian Oscar winning director Gabriele Salvatores’ upcoming English language project Siberian Education, a harrowing expose of the Siberian criminal underworld based on Nicolai Lilin’s acclaimed book of the same name. The book has been adapted for the screen by Italian screenwriting duo Stefano Rulli and Sandro Petraglia.

Malkovich will play the role of the grandfather Kuzja, who passes on the criminal ethics of the Siberian gangster community where they live to his young grandson, Kolyma, played by Lithuanian newcomer Arnas Fedaravičius.

Salvatores has commented little about the project to date – his first English language film – other than to compare his vision for the project to a Western, by calling it an “Eastern” due to its Eastern European setting, its cadence and use of the wide-open spaces of the Southern Russian region where the story is set.

For the project, Salvatores will do a split production, shooting half in summer (beginning in August) and again in winter due to story requirements. All principal photography will take place in Lithuania and will shoot some scenes in Italy.

The picture is also Salvatores’ first production with Cattleya after shifting from his long time producer Maurizio Totti of Colorado films. Totti produced Salvatores’ foreign Oscar winning Mediterraneo in 1991.