Russell Crowe to Direct Aussie War Pic

Since Gladiator netted him an Oscar and made him a megastar worth $20 million a picture, Russell Crowe has been slow in announcing his next project.

Now, taking a page from actors-turned-directors such as Mel Gibson and Kevin Costner, Crowe announces that he will forgo a big-time salary to step behind the camera for a battle-heavy true-life tale.

In his directorial debut, Crowe will pay homage to the heroism of Australia with the ensemble World War II film The Long Green Shore, based on a novel that puts into context Australia's involvement in the war.

Crowe, who may also star in the film, will serve as producer and screenwriter on the project, which is expected to start shooting next spring in the South Pacific.

It's premature at this point to speculate whether Crowe will be able to showcase his sensitive side with an on-screen romance (as Gibson and Costner did in their respective multi-Oscar-winning epics Braveheart and Dances With Wolves), says the actor's rep.

However, the trades report that the novel by John Hepworth has "meditative qualities, as the battalion members ponder the fragility of life." In other words, it combines the moody introspection of The Thin Red Line, the Down Under bloke heroics of Gallipoli, and the brutal body count of Saving Private Ryan. Er, fine, as long as it doesn't have the running time of, say, Dances With Wolves.

Post-Gladiator, Crowe has wrapped A Beautiful Mind for director Ron Howard, in which he plays schizophrenic math genius John Forbes Nash Jr.

Clooney, Washington Also Nearing Directorial Debuts Also set to make his directorial debut is George Clooney, who's taking over Confessions of a Dangerous Mind from a too-busy Bryan Singer. The Perfect Storm star is also expected to take a small part in the comedy. Also kicking off his first time behind the camera is Denzel Washington, who'll helm Finding Fish.

Historically, Oscar has been kinder to some actors once they've turned director, such as Gibson, Costner, Clint Eastwood, and Robert Redford, who nailed Best Director Oscars but have so far lost out in the acting arena. Acting Oscar winners who've made well-regarded directorial turns include Robert De Niro (A Bronx Tale) and Tom Hanks (That Thing You Do!). However, other actors' vanity directing projects have seriously tanked, such as Johnny Depp's still-unreleased film The Brave and Costner's Wolves follow-up, the box-office dud The Postman.

Reuters contributed to this story.