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Russell Crowe set for ‘Les Miserables’

Universal sets December 7, 2012 release

Universal is ready to get its “Les Miserables” adaptation off the ground as Russell Crowe is set to star opposite Hugh Jackman in the pic, which will bow Dec. 7, 2012.

Tom Hooper is onboard to direct, with the musical’s original producer, Cameron Mackintosh, producing. Composer Claude-Michel Schoenberg’s original score will be used.

William Nicholson penned the script based on the Mackintosh-produced tuner (itself based on the classic Victor Hugo’s novel), which follows Jean Valjean, the intrepid protagonist on the run during the French Revolution. Jackman will play Valjean, and Crowe will play his nemesis, Inspector Javert.

Mackintosh will produce along with Tim Bevan, Debra Hayward and Eric Fellner through Working Title Films.

Variety first reported back in June that the studio had strong interest in Jackman and that the actor was also very high in playing Valjean.

The studio had also circled Crowe for some time but needed to finish up certain details on Hooper’s deal before it could move forward on the actors’ deals.

The plan is to begin shooting the pic sometime in the first quarter of 2012 so Jackman can squeeze it in before jumping into Fox’s “The Wolverine.”

Since announcing that the film would be Hooper’s follow-up to “The King’s Speech,” the studio has taken some time in figuring out the cast.

U had approached Jackman for his part early in the project’s development but had to figure out the scheduling.

With Crowe, the issue was a little different as the studio and director were weighing other options, such as Paul Bettany, for Javert.

In the end, Crowe’s broader appeal and musical chops (he sings in his own band) led U to favoring the Aussie for the role.

Crowe’s involvement in “Les Miserables” may end his participation in several other high-profile projects scheduled to shoot around the same time.

Relativity was interested in the actor for one of the starring roles in “Out of the Furnace,” and he was also a front-runner for one of the male leads in Akiva Goldsman’s “Winter’s Tale,” but both projects are expected to shoot around the same time as “Les Miserables.”

The 1998 bigscreen version of Hugo’s novel — one of many cinematic adaptations over the years — starred Liam Neeson, Geoffrey Rush and Uma Thurman but managed only $14 million at the domestic box office.

Crowe is currently filming Universal’s “The Man With Iron Fists” before jumping into “Man of Steel” at Warner Bros., where he will play Superman’s biological father, Jor-El.

He is repped by WME.

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