White-hot German director Tom Tykwer will make his English-language debut directing Heaven, a Miramax co-production that will form the first in a planned trilogy of films based on screenplays by late great Polish film-maker Krzysztof Kieslowski and his writing partner Krzysztof Piesiewicz. Cate Blanchett is in talks to star in the $11m film which is scheduled to start shooting in July on locations in Italy and Germany.

Miramax Films has worldwide rights to Heaven excluding German-speaking territories which are held by co-producer X-Filme. Miramax International will debut the film to foreign buyers at Cannes. In the film, Blanchett would play a Scottish woman who moves to Tuscany and begins a relationship with a young Italian man.

Anthony Minghella, one of Miramax's stable of top directors, is expected to take an executive producer credit on the film which is being produced by Cedomir Kolar of Paris-based Noe Productions. Noe picked up the rights to the trilogy last year from Marin Karmitz's MK2 - producer of Kieslowski's celebrated Three Colours (Blue, White and Red) trio of classic films - which had backed the development of the new scripts in 1995. However momentum slowed down following Kieslowski's sudden death in March 1996. Noe itself financed the acquisition of the rights for which it has since been reimbursed by Miramax.

Noe hopes to set up the second film in this latest Kieslowski/Piesiewicz trilogy - Hell - in the same way as Heaven, although there is some doubt as to the status of the final instalment, Purgatory.

The film marks Tykwer's first film with Miramax following a deal struck in Dec 1998 between Miramax and his Berlin-based film collective X-Filme Creative Pool of which Tykwer is a founder member. Under the agreement, X-Filme provides Miramax with an exclusive first look at all properties owned, controlled or written by its members, while Miramax submits projects to X-Filme for its members to direct. Heaven is an example of the latter.

Miramax had a strong relationship with Kieslowski, distributing Blue, White and Red in the US. Company co-chairman Harvey Weinstein had personally lobbied the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences to change the rules for the Foreign Language Film Oscar so that Kieslowski's multi-national co-production Red could qualify in 1994. Eventually, in an Oscar twist typical of Miramax, Kieslowski secured a Best Director nomination.

Tykwer has just finished shooting The Princess And The Warrior, a drama starring Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) and Benno Fuhrmann about two people overcoming obstacles in order to fall in love. Le Studio Canal Plus is handling international distribution outside North America and Germany.

Blanchett, who recently completed both Sally Potter's The Man Who Cried with Johnny Depp, John Turturro and Christina Ricci, and Sam Raimi's The Gift alongside Keanu Reeves, Katie Holmes and Hilary Swank is currently in New Zealand filming her part as Galadriel in Peter Jackson's The Lord Of The Rings. She would then film Heaven, followed by a starring role opposite Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton in Barry Levinson's Outlaws before segueing into the title role in Charlotte Gray directed by Gillian Armstrong.

Patrick Frater in London contributed to this report