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Weeks ago, the race to direct a sequel to Zack Snyder’s 300 for Warner Bros. boiled down to Smart People helmer Noam Murro and Juam Collet-Serra of Liam Neeson’s Unknown. But now that Collet-Serra is in talks to take over the live-action Akira film from Albert Hughes, Murro appears ready to grab the reins on 300: Battle of Artemisia.

The follow-up film, which once was titled Xerxes and is based on Frank Miller’s upcoming graphic novel, shifts its focus to the Persian leader who was the antagonist in Snyder’s 2006 battle thriller, the Hollywood Reporter writes. Snyder co-wrote the screenplay with his 300 collaborator Kurt Johnstad. Their Xerxes character, who was played by Rodrigo Santoro in the original, will be revised into a directionless warrior searching for purpose after the death of his father. Over the course of several years, he’ll battle the Athenian leader Themistocles, with the focal point being the Battle of Artemisia, which took place in 480 B.C.

But anyone who saw Smart People -- a somber and intimate character drama with Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker and Ellen Page -- probably didn’t peg Murro as the next major action director, the successor to John Woo, John McTiernan or Tony Scott’s throne. And yet, studio executives must have seen something like this in Murro, because even before he entered the 300 sequel discussion, he was on the hook to direct a fifth Die Hard film, which remains in developmental hell (and probably should stay there now that Murro appears to be moving in a different direction). Not that we’ll get a look at his particular approach to action, as THR reports that even without Snyder behind the camera, the goal will be to shoot Artemisia in the same visual style as Snyder’s hit. Bring on the slo-mo screaming shirtless dudes!