'Bees' keep a sweet role for Bettany

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Paul Bettany has joined the cast of Fox Searchlight's drama "The Secret Life of Bees."

Bettany will play widower T. Ray Owens, the father of the film's 14-year-old central character, Lily Owens, played by Dakota Fanning.

Gina Prince-Bythewood is directing the film, which begins shooting this week in North Carolina. The helmer also wrote the script, based on the novel by Sue Monk Kidd.

Bettany joins an ensemble cast that includes Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Alicia Keys, Sophie Okonedo and Tristan Wilds.

Playing T. Ray's late wife Deborah Owens in flashbacks for the film is Hilarie Burton (CW Network's "One Tree Hill").

Set in the 1960s South, "Bees" revolves around Lily and her friend Rosaleen (Hudson), who flee their small town to escape their harsh upbringing and uncover the mysteries of Lily's late mother. Along the way, they are taken in by three sisters (Latifah, Okonedo, Keys) who teach them the art of beekeeping.

Searchlight plans to release the film this year. "Bees" is produced by the Donners' Co. and Overbrook Entertainment.

Bettany, who recently wrapped "Young Victoria" and "Inkheart," is represented by Melanie Greene Management, CAA and Independent Talent Group in the U.K.

Burton is repped by Endeavor, Principal Entertainment and attorney Robert Strent.
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