Russell Crowe is set to make his directorial debut in a Bill Hicks biopic.

The 48-year-old star - who has made big screen appearances in 'The Insider', 'Gladiator' and 'A Beautiful Mind' - is stepping behind the camera to helm the movie about the late US comedy legend, which will be written by the Hollywood actor's former schoolmate Mark Staufer.

Russell was originally in talks to portray Bill - who tragically lost his battle with cancer in 1994 aged 32 - in the film, with production due to begin early next year.

Mark told the Daily Telegraph newspaper: ''Bill Hicks' life is tragically short, but spectacularly interesting. The screenplay has gone through a number of drafts and we'll go into production early next year.

''It is a huge role for someone, made all the more special, or downright scary, by the fact the director is an Oscar-winning actor like Russell.''

Russell has previously turned his hand to directing his singer wife Danielle Spencer's music videos and short films, but nothing on this scale.

The New Zealand-born actor is set to play the titular role in Darren Aronofsky's biblical epic 'Noah' and he is expected to take on the role of Count Dracula in Eli Roth's forthcoming film 'Harker'.