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Crowe directing first feature with ''Bra Boys''

Plus: Jet Li set to play title character in ”Mummy 3,” Iranian president says ”300” unfairly tampers with history, Larry ”Bud” Melman dies at 85, and more…

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Crowe directing Australian surfer movie
Russell Crowe will make his feature directorial debut helming Bra Boys, a drama centered on a real-life counterculture surfer community in Australia. The Universal and Imagine Entertainment movie will be based on the Bra Boys documentary, which focused the three brothers who started the community in a Sydney suburb. Crowe narrated the documentary. It is unknown whether he will appear in the movie. (Variety)

Jet Li set for Mummy 3
Jet Li is being pursued to play the villainous title character in the third installment of The Mummy that Rob Cohen is directing for Universal. Alfred Gough and Miles Millar are writing the script, but few details are known about the story other than it being set in China starting in ancient times and then jumping forward to post-World War II. Li is currently set to start production on an untitled J&J project alongside Jackie Chan. He was last seen Fearless. (Hollywood Reporter)

Iran’s Ahmadinejad takes issue with 300
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has spoken out against the hit movie 300, joining the chorus of Iranian critics who claim that the Warner Bros. movie unfairly portrays the country’s history. Though he didn’t name the movie by name, in a speech delivered on Wednesday (March 21), Ahmadinejad said Western countries are ”trying to tamper with history by making a film and by making Iran’s image look savage.” His statements follow those of his cultural advisor, Javad Shangari, who a week earlier accused the movie of being ”part of a comprehensive U.S. psychological warfare aimed against Iranian culture.” Warner released a statement saying: ”The film 300 is a work of fiction inspired by the Frank Miller graphic novel and loosely based on an historical event. The studio developed this film purely as a fictional work with the sole purpose of entertaining audiences; it is not meant to disparage an ethnicity or culture or make any sort of political statement.” (Variety)

Larry ”Bud” Melman dies at 85
Calvert DeForest, aka Larry ”Bud” Melman,” died on March 19 at 85 in Babylon, NY after a long illness. DeForest was a regular on David Letterman’s late night talk shows on NBC and CBS dating back to 1982. He last appeared on The Late Show in 2002 to celebrate his 81st birthday. Letterman said in a statement: ”Everyone always wondered if Calvert was an actor playing a character, but in reality he was just himself, a genuine, modest and nice man. To our staff and to our viewers, he was a beloved and valued part of our show, and we will miss him.” (Hollywood Reporter)

TV Land planning Penny and Cindy pilot
TV Land is developing a scripted buddy comedy pilot starring Laverne & Shirley stars and real-life friends Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams. Gay Rosenthal Prods. is producing, and Jim Vallely (Golden Girls, Arrested Development) is the writer and executive producer. (Hollywood Reporter)

Venice festival honors Tim Burton
The Venice Film Festival, which runs Aug. 29-Sept. 8, will bestow its Golden Lion Award for career achievement on Tim Burton. The festival has also named Sept. 5 ”Tim Burton Day” and will celebrate at the Palazzo del Cinema with several special events, possibly including a sneak peek at his Sweeney Todd adaptation, now in production. (Variety)

ABC renews 11 shows
ABC has ordered a second season for first-year series Ugly Betty, Brothers & Sisters, and Men in Trees, and new seasons for Grey’s Anatomy, Lost, Boston Legal, Desperate Housewives, Dancing with the Stars, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Bachelor, and Jimmy Kimmel Live. The network is still considering whether to renew What About Brian. (Hollywood Reporter)

Apple ready to ship set-top box
After a delay, Apple is now ready to ship its Apple TV set-top box, which can wirelessly stream or download iTunes videos, podcasts, and music from a computer to a television. It also allows users to stream Internet movie trailers, photos, and homemade videos, but it will not access YouTube videos. Apple TV retails for $299 and only works on newer televisions that accept HDMI cables. (Hollywood Reporter)

Battlestar plans two-hour special
Sci Fi Channel will air a two-hour Battlestar Galactica special in the fall that will bridge the current third season with the fourth, which will start in January 2008. It will feature the entire cast, but not necessarily be tied to current storyline. It will also be sold as a separate DVD. (Hollywood Reporter)

Doo wop legend Hy Weiss dies at 84
Hyman ”Hy” Weiss died of natural causes on Tuesday (March 20) at the age of 84. Born in Romania and brought up in the Bronx, Weiss co-founded, with his brother Sam, Old Town records in 1953 and released several major hits from the R&B and doo-wop musicians thriving New York City in the 1950s and early 60s. His biggest songs were ”There’s a Moon Out Tonight” by the Capris, ”Let the Little Girl Dance” by Billy Bland, ”So Fine” by the Fiestas, and ”Dear One” by Larry Finnegan. He continued in the music business after doo wop fell out of favor in the 60s, working out licensing deals for reissues with Atlantic, Rhino, Collectables, Ace (London), and P-Vine (Japan). He also consulted for and operated the seminal Memphis soul label Stax Records from 1972-74. (Hollywood Reporter)

Tennessee legislators object to Justin Timberlake proposal
A bill in Tennessee’s state legislature introduced to pay honor to native son Justin Timberlake has been removed from a list of resolutions expecting unanimous approval after Republican state senators objected to drawing attention to songs like ”Sexy Back” and ”Rock Your Body.” Timberlake is from Millington, TN, a town near Memphis. (AP via Yahoo!)

Vivica Fox arrested for DUI
Vivica A. Fox was arrested for drunken driving in Los Angeles late Tuesday (March 20) after being pulled over for going 80 mph in a 65 mph zone. The California Highway Patrol arrest report also stated that Fox had trouble staying in her lane. She failed a sobriety test and a breathalyzer showed her blood alcohol level exceeded the state’s 0.08 legal limit. A court date has not been set. (Reuters)

Union, Helms, Banks join Murphy’s Starship
Gabrielle Union, Ed Helms, and Elizabeth Banks have been cast alongside Eddie Murphy in Starship Dave for 20th Century Fox. The comedy re-teams Murphy with his Norbit director, Brian Robbins. Union and Helms play crew members of a spaceship that takes the shape of a human, played by Murphy, and Banks will play the love interest of another character played by Murphy. Shooting is set to begin in the next few weeks. (Variety)

Palm picks up rights to Indie Spirit-nominated documentary
Palm Pictures has picked up North American rights to You’re Gonna Miss Me, Keven McAlester’s rockumentary chronicling the life of Roky Erickson from the 1960s psychedelic band The 13th Floor Elevators. Palm plans a summer release. (Hollywood Reporter)

IN THE GOSSIPS

Page Six: Charlie Sheen has agreed to narrate a new version of a YouTube documentary that claims a U.S. government faction was behind the Sept. 11 World Trade Center disaster.

Rush & Molloy: Sources say Elisabeth Hasselbeck believes Barbara Walters has lost control of The View to a dominating Rosie O’Donnell.