When Tony Blair chose the closing paragraph of an obscure 1927 novel called The Bridge Of San Luis Rey to read at a memorial service last year for the victims of September 11, he did not know that UK producer Pembridge Pictures had already spent close to ten years prepping a film adaptation of the same book, now a Euros 23m co-production with Spain's KanZaman.

Blair's choice of the passage may prove a good omen for the project, unveiled this week at the San Sebastian International Film Festival (Sept 19-28), considering the resurgence of interest in American writer Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

Bridge narrates the fictional tale of a monk who questions the spiritual significance - or lack therein - of the tragic accidental deaths of five people killed in a bridge collapse in 18th century Peru.

Mary McGuckian wrote the script and will direct the film, planned for a January 2003 shoot in Spain. She says she was attracted by the story's "extraordinary evocation of mortality." She describes the film as "character-driven." The ensemble cast, which includes at least nine lead characters, has yet to be revealed but is expected to headline an all-star American and European roster.

Together with producers Garrett McGuckian of Pembridge and Denise O'Dell of KanZaman, McGuckian unveiled the project on Monday in San Sebastian, where they were in town to meet with one of the film's hoped-for stars.

The European production has had assistance from American companies Hollywood Classics and Beachwood Capital in securing financing. Hollywood Classics is also handling international sales with help from Tricor Entertainment on a North American deal.