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Russell Crowe at helm of WWII film
( 2001-08-09 16:10 ) (7 )

Academy Award-winning actor Russell Crowe will make his debut as a director, screenwriter and producer on "The Long Green Shore," a WWII ensemble drama he will also star in.

Production will begin next spring in the South Pacific.

Crowe's involvement in "The Long Green Shore" will answer the riddle of numerous studio executives who've wondered why the seemingly available Crowe has been turning down their highest-profile films. Even though he could make much more money as an actor coming off his Oscar-winning stint in "Gladiator" and "The Insider," Crowe has put everything aside to film a novel that puts into context Australia's involvement in WWII.

"The Long Green Shore" tells the story of an Australian battalion that arrives on the beaches of New Guinea with orders to beat back the retreating Japanese. The men are greeted by the corpses of Americans and Japanese, remnants of earlier bloody warfare and a reminder of their dubious purpose there.

The war against Germany in Europe is over and the Japanese resolve has weakened to the point where it's a foregone conclusion that WWII will end shortly. Pushed by a hard-nosed commander, the battalion presses on, engaging starving and straggling Japanese battalions in bloody battles.

The book has meditative qualities, as the battalion members ponder the fragility of life and the notion of obligation to fight under their flag even when waging battles that serve more political than practical purposes.

Crowe could play the commander or any one of about a dozen other roles, including a character who narrates the entire tale.

He will produce the Intermedia-funded picture with Mark Johnson ("What Lies Beneath") after rewriting the existing script by Bob Ellis, who was a friend and collaborator of the book's late writer, John Hepworth. The film will be Crowe's followup project to the Ron Howard-directed "A Beautiful Mind" for Imagine.

The collaboration between Crowe, Sinclair and producer Johnson has been years in the making. Sinclair met Crowe when Intermedia had just gotten off the ground with "Sliding Doors" and Crowe's star was just beginning to take off after "LA Confidential."

When Crowe revealed his interest in the book and his determination to get behind the camera, Intermedia partner Nigel Sinclair secured rights to the book right away. Intermedia will seek to set up the midbudget film with a domestic partner.

Crowe becomes the latest leading man to move behind the camera, with Denzel Washington about to start production on the Fox Searchlight drama "Finding Fish" and George Clooney preparing "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind" at Miramax.

Crowe's more immediate assignment will be touring the US this month as the front man for the band Thirty Odd Foot of Grunts. Once he's finished rocking, he will shut himself away to work on the script and prep the movie for the spring shoot.



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