Ledger, Penn take part in Malick's 'Life'

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Heath Ledger and Sean Penn are in talks to star in "Tree of Life," with River Road Entertainment finally bringing writer-director Terrence Malick's long-gestating drama to life.

Ledger would take the lead opposite an actress to be determined, with Penn in a supporting role.

Malick also is in talks, with principal photography set to begin in March.

River Road founder Bill Pohlad will produce with Sarah Green, Malick's producer on his last feature "The New World."

The film's plot has been closely guarded, but is described by an insider as a complex drama.

"New World" lead Colin Farrell was in talks to star in the feature two years ago, with about a third of the shoot set for India, but the star and location are no longer part of the project.

If anyone has the muscle to bring "Life" to the screen, it's River Road.

The company produced Focus Features' highest-grossing film "Brokeback Mountain" starring Ledger, and Penn's recent directorial effort for Paramount Vantage, "Into the Wild."

Other projects the outfit has partly or totally produced and financed include Focus' "Lust, Caution" and the recent Roadside Attractions pickup "Chicago 10."

Penn has been a longtime Malick supporter and friend, starring in his war drama "The Thin Red Line." Ledger appears in "I'm Not There" and next summer's Batman feature "The Dark Night."

Ledger, Penn and Malick are repped by CAA.
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