Variety is reporting that Ed Harris will make his return to the director's chair with Appaloosa, a western he will star in with Viggo Mortensen and Renee Zellweger. The film starts filming in New Mexico on October 1st. This must be a real passion project for Harris, in addition to acting and directing, he's co-producing the film and co-wrote the script with Robert Knott. The story is an adaptation of Robert B. Parker's novel of the same name, and is "centered on a pair of friends hired to protect a lawless town suffering at the hands of a renegade rancher." But...wait for it..."the arrival of an attractive widow disrupts their plans." Harris will play Virgil Cole, the new marshal of the mining and ranching town of Appaloosa. Mortensen plays his deputy, Everett Hitch. Together they take on the corrupt rancher who ordered the previous marshal and deputy killed. No word on who will play the corrupt rancher, but let me suggest Rip Taylor?

This will be Harris' second time directing a feature. His first was the pretty solid Pollock, in which he directed Marcia Gay Harden to a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and himself to a Best Actor nomination. Harris and Mortensen were great together in the excellent A History of Violence, and I do love westerns, but I would be a lot more excited about this project if it weren't for Zellweger. Diane Lane originally had the role of the "attractive widow," and that's a choice I'd be much happier about. It's just a matter of taste, but Zellweger's acting drives me insane. And I particularly can't stand her in period roles -- how she won an Academy Award for her supremely annoying work in Cold Mountain, I'll never know. I still remember that scene, used in the trailer, with her bellowing that ridiculous line, something like -- "They say this war is cloudy, but then they tell us to go and stand in the rain, and then we go and stand in the rain, and then they tell us it's raining!" Her hamtastic performance still haunts my dreams. But hey, maybe this'll be different.