Mike Fleming

20th Century Fox is turning up the heat on Die Hard 5, even though its attached director, Noam Murro, left the picture after he got the job helming 300: Battle Of Artemisia for Warner Bros. I’m told that the studio has come up with a short list of directors who’ll meet to potentially helm the film scripted by Skip Woods. They are: Joe Cornish (who directed Attack the Block), Fast Five helmer Justin Lin, Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn and Max Payne helmer John Moore. The film brings the always-in-the-wrong-place cop John McClane to Russia. Bruce Willis is ready to reprise his signature role as early as this fall.

The surprise on the list is Cornish. While his feature directorial debut Attack the Block had a budget probably less than the catering bill on last weekend’s other alien invasion film opener Cowboys & Aliens, the movie has become a critical darling as it opened to $130,000 in eight theaters (it has grossed $4.3 million overseas). It would be a big jump to Die Hard 5, but remember the studio had attached Murro, whose debut was the 2008 character comedy Smart People.

Lin is hot off Fast Five, and is expected to do another The Fast and the Furious installment and is attached to the package to finish The Terminator franchise that was acquired by Megan Ellison’s Annapurna Pictures.

Refn has much momentum for Drive, the drama that played Cannes and opens in September. Refn reteamed with Ryan Gosling for Only God Forgives, another action film that shoots late summer in Thailand, and which FilmDistrict acquired for U.S. distribution late last month. Refn is also booked to remake Logan’s Run with Gosling. Then there is Moore, the Irish helmer who has  directed all of his features – Max Payne, The Omen, Flight of the Phoenix and Behind Enemy Lines — for Fox. A web report indicated that Moore already had the job, but I’m told that the filmmaker meetings haven’t started yet, so that might be jumping the gun.

This is certainly the big directing job of the moment. The last installment, 2007′s Live Free Or Die Hard, showed there was still steam in the franchise when it grossed $384 million worldwide, not shabby considering the first installment, an action classic, came out in 1988.