Learning Italian, the fourth Kevin Costner-Kevin Reynolds collaboration, is now in pre-production and set to shoot in Sicily and Germany sometime soon, or at least in time for a 2011 release. An apparent period “comedy” (set in the mid to late ’80s?), plot is about some kind of low-key CIA agent (Costner) stationed in an Italian coastal town who’s assigned to monitor a KGB agent. “When both are called back to their respective countries,” the boilerplate synopsis reads, “they decide to concoct a fake threat so they can continue to live in Italy.”

It doesn’t sound, in other words, like a coiled-spring hijinks comedy as much as a laid-back, quality-of-life mood piece with heh-heh laughs, possibly in the vein of Local Hero or Billy Wilder‘s Avanti or that line of country. The education alluded to in the title refers, I’m guessing, to a laughing Mediterranean way of life more than language.

What’s the difference between “heh-heh” laughter and “no-laugh funny”? I don’t know. Maybe no difference. You tell me. The definitions have to be sorted out.

The KGB agent part is apparently uncast but HE is respectfully begging Costner to not choose an actor who will torture the audience to death with a thick Russian accent. That means don’t hire Mickey Rourke. Not after that tearful “I remember a Bosnian woman I didn’t save” scene in The Expendables. In my view that one scene wiped out all the good will Rourke built up during his entire “Rourke is back and he’s sorry for being a dick in the ’80s and early ’90s” Wrestler campaign.

When Learning Italian was first announced last February everyone recalled the stormy relationship between Costner and Reynolds, particularly their arguments and editing-room lockouts during the making of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and especially Waterworld, which Reynolds left towards the end of filming. And yet, according to Deadline, the two have remained friendly. I’m predicting they’ll come to physical blows during the editing of Learning Italian.