Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: The producers of the 300 spinoff known as Xerxes have retitled their film 300: Battle of Artemisia, and they have also narrowed their focus of potential directors to two: Noam Murro and Jaume Collet-Serra. The film, a spinoff to 300, is one that the film’s original director Zack Snyder was going to direct. That was until Warner Bros and producer Chris Nolan offered him Man of Steel, and Snyder and wife and producing partner Debra Snyder put Xerxes aside and moved on to rebooting the Superman franchise because Warner Bros needed it. The Snyders have been all over this director selection process. Snyder had written a script with his 300 cohort Kurt Johnstad. Like 300, it is based on a Frank Miller graphic novel that will be shot with the kind of stylized period green-screen action visuals that became the signature of 300 and helped the film gross $456 million worldwide. Xerxes was the Persian leader seen in 300. Miller’s graphic novel told the story of how Xerxes became this peculiar god-like entity. That mythology goes back to the death of his father, Darius, from injuries sustained at the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C. Darius had told his son not to attack the Greeks because they can only be punished by a god, and so Xerxes tried to transform himself into a deity to gain revenge. The new pic’s produced by the Snyders, Mark Canton, Gianni Nunnari, Thomas Tull and Bernie Goldmann. The prime mover on the film has been Legendary Pictures, which made the original with Warner Bros and has taken the lead on several big-ticket pictures since Tull recapitalized his producing/financing company. That includes the Guillermo del Toro-directed Pacific Rim with Charlie Hunnam and Idris Elba and the Alex Proyas-directed Paradise Lost with Bradley Cooper.

As for those directors: Murro’s sole directing credit is the Sarah Jessica Parker-starrer Smart People for Miramax, but his calling card for big-scale movie making is his commercials work on campaigns that include the Halo video game. He’s a five-time DGA-nominated commercials director, won two Golden Lions at Cannes and last year signed a deal to develop to direct the next Die Hard film at 20th Century Fox. Collet-Serra directed the sleeper hit Unknown for Warner Bros, and he’s prepping to direct Red Circle for Working Title and StudioCanal. He’s also developing the vampire tale Harker with Appian Way at Warner Bros. Both are repped by CAA and Murro is managed by 360′s Guymon Casady.

Developing…