Veteran US actor Sam Shepard and Spanish star Eduardo Noriega will head the cast of Mateo Gil’s new project Blackthorn, a western set to shoot in Bolivia next year.

Blackthorn will tell the story of an old American named James Blackthorn (alias Butch Cassidy), played by Shepard, who raises horses in Bolivia but is dying and wants to return to the US. However, along the way he crosses paths with a young Spanish mining engineer accused of robbing a mine (Noriega), and the two slowly strike up a friendship. 

“One of the things I like most about westerns is that it’s a truly moral genre. The characters face life and death, and other very important matters (freedom, commitment, loyalty, courage, treacher, justice, friendship… and even love) in very pure and simple terms. The decisions they make are not only very dramatic, but set examples. What more can you ask from a film?,” says Mateo Gil.

Blackthorn will be produced by Spanish outfits Aiete-Arianne Films and Arcadia Motion Pictures alongside Taiwanese company Zeus Films. Spanish broadcaster TVE has pre-bought the TV rights for Spain.

Originally Nick Nolte was intended to take the role of James Blackthorn, but has been replaced by Shepard.

Gil is Alejandro Amenabar’s co-scriptwriter on projects including Agora, which has already taken $11m at the Spanish box office in less than a week, the Oscar winning The Sea Inside and Open Your Eyes. His directorial debut Nadie Conoce a Nadie, also starring Eduardo Noriega, picked up a Goya award for special effects in 2000.