Before he dusts off John McClane for Die Hard 5, Noam Murro will count to 300

Noam Murro (“Smart People”, the upcoming “Die Hard 5″) will direct the “300″ spin-off, “300 : Battle of Artemesia”.

The Hollywood Reporter says the brass at Warner pitted Murro and “Unknown” helmer Jaum Collet-Serra in a race to the director’s chair. Ultimately, WB offered Collet-Serra the feature-film adaptation of “Akira” (as we reported yesterday) and are believed to be in the final stages of locking down Murro for “300″.

“300″ director Zack Snyder scripted and will produce the flick.

“Artemisia” is based on Frank Miller’s upcoming graphic novel that ”takes Xerxes, the Persian leader who is an antagonist in 300, and turns him into more of a pivotal figure. He’s a man in search of godhood after the death of his father, battling an Athenian warlord named Themistocles. The story takes place over the course of several years, but the focal point is the battle of Artemisium, which occured in 480 BC.”

Rodrigo Santoro played Xerxes in “300″; it’s expected he’ll reprise the role for the new film.