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    Crowe Hunting Hood

    Russell Crowe apparently has a thing for men in tights.

    The Oscar winner has signed up to play the Sheriff of Nottingham in a swashbuckler that turns the Robin Hood legend on its head, according to Variety.

    Crowe is reportedly reteaming with the creative forces behind A Beautiful Mind, Imagine Entertainment and Universal Pictures, for the tentatively titled Nottingham.

    Universal outbid rivals Warner Bros., Sony/Columbia, New Line Cinema and DreamWorks for the movie rights to the spec script by Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, the creators of Showtime's Sleeper Cell.

    Nottingham recasts the sheriff as the good guy investigating a series of murders committed by the famous English folk hero and his band of Merry Men, who are portrayed as notorious bandits in this tale. The inverted story also finds the sheriff competing with Robin for the affections of Maid Marian.

    The sheriff character will be presented much more nobly than past big-screen incarnations—Alan Rickman's nefarious lawman hounding Kevin Costner in 1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Roger Rees' buffoonish Sheriff of Rotingham in Mel Brooks' 1993 farce, Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

    "He's trying to do the right thing, but he's up against Robin Hood, who's becoming heroic while not necessarily acting in the nicest way," Reiff tells Variety.

    According to the trade, producers are apparently stealing from the rich and giving to the star. Crowe will receive $20 million against 20 percent of the gross—not too shabby considering how off the mark his latest release, the Ridley Scott-directed A Good Year, was at the box office.

    Speaking of Scott, the Oscar-nominated helmer is among a handful of filmmakers, including Bryan Singer (Superman Returns), Sam Raimi (Spider-Man) and Jon Turteltaub (National Treasure), reportedly interested in the project.

    For Reiff and Voris, the spec sale is something of a consolation prize, given that it comes just days after Showtime announced the cancellation of their Emmy-nominated Sleeper Cell after three seasons.

    "It was a bitter pill, but this is a pretty good antidote," says Voris.

    Imagine's Brian Grazer will produce Nottingham, marking the fourth film collaboration his company has had with Crowe and Universal. Previous releases include two Ron Howard dramas, A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man, and the upcoming American Gangster, which reunites Crowe with Scott and is scheduled to hit theaters in November.

    Universal has put Nottingham on the fast track, which means it could start shooting later this year or early 2008.

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