Russell Crowe is set to play the Sheriff of Nottingham in a new film version of Robin Hood. Universal Pictures have lined up the Gladiator star for their take on the classic tale, which will portray the traditionally evil Sheriff as a good character. The project has been devised by Sleeper Cell creators Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris.

Reiff told the Hollywood Reporter website: "Part of the strength of the script was the simple idea of doing 'Robin Hood' by making the sheriff the good guy."

The two scriptwriters were involved in one of the biggest bidding wars of all time as Universal competed with Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema to make the film. Regency Enterprises, DreamWorks Pictures and Columbia Pictures were also said to be in the running.

This will be the fourth project involving Crowe, Universal and Imagine Entertainment. Previous movies include A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man - as well as American Gangster, which is due out later this year. Crowe will reportedly earn around $20 million to play the Sheriff.