04/21/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT
Fresh from his overwhelming box-office success directing "Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (see this weekend's box-office tally in a separate item), Ron Howard is already prepping his next project, and it takes place very far from Whoville. "My next movie's a film called 'Beautiful Minds,' starring Russell Crowe, Ed Harris, Jennifer Connolly," Howard, 46, tells PEOPLE. "It's based on a true story about a brilliant mathematician named John Nash, who ultimately won the Nobel Prize but had to overcome a tremendous amount of adversity and led a fascinating life." Just what those hardships were will remain under wraps for now, but Howard did permit this preview: "It's a great story with great roles for actors. Russell Crowe will be extraordinary in it. And I think it has a chance to be very interesting and unusual but also very emotionally rewarding for the audience."