Though perhaps best-known internationally for playing tough-guy roles in Romper Stomper (1993), L.A. Confidential (1997), and Gladiator (2000), New Zealand-born actor Russell Crowe has proven himself equally capable of playing gentler roles in films such as Proof (1991) and The Sum of Us (1992). No matter what kind of characters he plays, Crowe's weather-beaten handsomeness and gruff charisma combine to make him constantly watchable: his one-time Hollywood mentor Sharon Stone has called him "the sexiest guy working in movies today." Born in Wellington, New Zealand, on April 7, 1964, Crowe was raised in Australia from the age of four. His parents made their living by catering movie shoots, and often brought Crowe with them to work; it was while hanging around the various sets that he developed a passion for acting. After making his professional debut in an episode of the television series Spyforce when he was six, Crowe took a 12-year break from professional acting, netting his next gig when he was 18. In film, he had his first major roles in such dramas as The Crossing (1990) and Jocelyn Moorhouse's widely praised Proof (1991) (for which he won an Australian Film Institute award). He then went on to gain international recognition for his intense, multi-layered portrayal of a Melbourne skinhead in Geoffrey Wright's controversial Romper Stomper (1992), winning another AFI award, as well as an Australian Film Critics award.
It was Sharon Stone who helped bring Crowe to Hollywood to play a gunfighter-turned-preacher opposite her in Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead (1995). Though the film was not a huge box-office success, it did open Hollywood doors for Crowe, who subsequently split his time between the U.S. and Australia. In 1997, the actor had his largest success to date playing volatile cop Bud White in Curtis Hanson's L.A. Confidential (1997). Following the praise surrounding both the film and his performance in it, Crowe found himself working steadily in Hollywood, starring in two films released in 1999: Mystery, Alaska and The Insider. In the latter, he gave an Oscar-nominated lead performance as Jeffrey Wigand, a real-life tobacco industry employee whose personal life was dragged through the mud when he chose to blow the whistle on his former company's questionable business practices.
In 2000, however, Crowe finally crossed over into the public's consciousness with, literally, a tour de force performance in Ridley Scott's glossy Roman epic Gladiator. The Dreamworks/Universal co-production was a major gamble from the outset, devoting more than 100 million dollars to an unfinished script (involving the efforts of at least half a dozen writers), an untested star (stepping into a role originally intended for Mel Gibson), and an all-but-dead genre (the sword-and-sandals adventure). Thanks to an aggressive marketing campaign and mostly positive notices, however, the public turned out in droves the first weekend of the film's release, and kept coming back long into the summer for Gladiator's potent blend of action, grandeur, and melodrama -- all anchored by Crowe's passionate man-of-few-words performance.
Anticipation was high, then, for the actor's second 2000 showing, the hostage drama Proof of Life. Despite -- or perhaps because of -- the widely publicized affair between Crowe and his co-star Meg Ryan, the film failed to generate much heat during the holiday box-office season, and attention turned once again to the actor's star-making role some six months prior. In an Oscar year devoid of conventionally spectacular epics, Gladiator netted 12 nominations in February 2001, including one for its lead performer. While many wags viewed the film's eventual Best Picture victory as a fluke, the same could not be said for Crowe's Best Actor victory: nudging past such stiff competition as Tom Hanks and Ed Harris, Crowe finally nabbed a statue, affirming for Hollywood the talent that critics had first noticed almost ten years earlier.
Crowe's 2001 role as real-life Nobel Prize-winning schizophrenic mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. brought the actor back into the Oscar arena. Directed by Ron Howard and co-starring Jennifer Connelly, A Beautiful Mind was criticized for omitting the more sordid and unsightly details of Nash's troubled marriage and decent into mental illness. Still, Crowe's sensitive portrayal, coupled with Howard's assured direction, put the actor back on the mountain of fame that he had previously conquered with Gladiator. A Beautiful Mind quickly vaulted past the 100-million-dollar mark as it took home Golden Globes for Best Picture, Supporting Actress, Screenplay, and Actor and racked up eight Oscar nominations, including a Best Actor nod for Crowe.
Actor Crowe's rock band dissolves
Actor Russell Crowe has revealed his rock band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts has been disbanded.
The Australian posted a message on his website saying the band "seems to have dissolved/evolved". He was disappointed but was now free to write songs about things going on in his own life and performing with a new line-up, he added.
30 Odd Foot of Grunts received a great deal of publicity because of Crowe but their music was critically panned. Their 2002 album release suffered the ignominious fate of selling just 156 copies in its first week of release in the UK.
But it did not affect Crowe's superstar status, with his movie A Beautiful Mind winning an Oscar just months later. Crowe said that the indefinite postponement of the film Eucalyptus, in which he was to have starred opposite Nicole Kidman, had given him time to write lots of material.
He said his forthcoming album touched on varying subjects including "my beautiful wife, past relationships, my son, people I know, family tragedy".
"It is without doubt the most satisfying record I've ever made, and I know when you hear it you will be seduced by its beauty," said Crowe.
He added he was looking for someone to champion his music because his last record deal had not been a success.
Crowe will release a new co-written single, Raewyn, on 19 April through iTunes.
He said: "It is the only song I've ever written that has made both men and women cry, think, and call their parents, usually in that order.
"I have e-mails from Sting and Billy Bragg, two of my songwriting heroes that give testament to the quiet power of the song."
Al-Qaeda Plot To Kidnap Russell Crowe
Al-Qaeda planned to kidnap Russell Crowe when Gladiator was released in a bid to 'culturally destabilise' the US.
The actor - who was given FBI protection - has revealed the bizarre plot in the new issue of GQ Magazine.
The New Zealand-born star was first contacted by the FBI in 2001, he admitted.
"That was the first time I'd ever heard the phrase al-Qaeda," Crowe said.
"It was about - and here's another little touch of irony - taking iconographic Americans out of the picture as sort of a cultural destabilisation plot."
Crowe was protected by the FBI on later film shoots and at events like the Golden Globe awards.
"I never fully understood what the **** was going on," he said.
"Suddenly it looks like I think I'm ****ing Elvis Presley, because everywhere I go there are all these FBI guys."
A career to Crow(e) about
He kept the world's press waiting more than two hours during his recent trip to London, but let's face it who's going to quibble with a bloke who will probably go down in screen history as the definitive Gladiator.
Actor Russell Crowe proved he was a force to be reckoned with when he shot to international fame as the mighty Maximus in Ridley Scott's epic movie and off-screen the larger than life star doesn't pull any punches either.
Take his outburst when director Taylor Hackford accused Crowe and his co-star Meg Ryan of ruining his new movie Proof Of Life after their on-screen relationship spilled over into real life.
"The guy's an idiot," blasts the burly star, "Seriously what a knob. The film is what the film is. I don't think truly the relationship had a negative effect on the movie. The slight problem in America is that we were putting out a hostage film at Christmas time. I'm not sure I would be going to that kind of film at Christmas time. I think it will be perceived differently in other countries once it's released there," he insists.
Whatever the reason for the film doing badly in the States, it's certainly become a talking point. It was on the set of Proof Of Life that Crowe fell for Hollywood golden girl Meg Ryan.
The actress had recently split from her husband Dennis Quaid and, although she and Crowe are no longer an item, the 37-year-old New Zealand-born star says he regrets nothing.
"The ending of her prior relationship had nothing to do with me," he shrugs. "Meg Ryan is a beautiful and courageous woman. I grieve the loss of her companionship but I've not lost the friendship. We talk all the time and that was what our connection was about. She has a wonderful mind and we just like a chat, you know."
Crowe admits that he's finding it difficult coping with his private life becoming the subject of public scrutiny. It's the only downside to a soaraway career which has seen him go from virtual unknown to international superstar in just three years.
"I have to try and keep a sense of humour about it all," he reasons. "Some of the things you read you get an immediate reaction to so I've stopped reading things now. I do worry about my family though. Some people do try some nasty things to get at them and try and get a reaction from them. The important thing to me is that I'm not driven by people's praise and I'm not slowed down by people's criticism. I'm just trying to work at the highest level I can."
That work has so far earned him two Oscar nominations, for last year's The Insider and for this summer's blockbuster hit Gladiator.
He's rapidly gained a reputation as an actor who's prepared to go the extra mile for a role. In The Insider he piled on the pounds with a diet of Bourbon and burgers while for Gladiator he toned his body to perfection - his latest movie is no exception.
In Proof Of Life he plays a former SAS man, hired by Ryan whose husband has been kidnapped by a Latin American rebel army.
During the gruelling shoot, Crowe not only met with former SAS members but insisted on doing his own stunts and opted to camp out in the rainforest of Ecuador rather than return to a comfortable hotel at night.
"I made a barbecue out of an oil can and stole food off the caterer," he grins. "I'd wave as everybody drove off in the evening and wave as they drove back in the morning and people were like, 'Are you crazy? There's wild cats in the jungle'. Quite frankly I will take the wild cats over the Ecuadorian drivers any day," he laughs.
It's this rough-edged charm which has led to comparisons with old-fashioned film stars such as Richard Burton and Richard Harris. Anthony Hopkins has also been quoted as saying Crowe reminds him of himself in his younger days, but the star shrugs off such accolades with typical down-to-earth humour.
"When I heard what Anthony Hopkins said I was flattered, but then somebody put forward that it may be I remind him of his younger self when he was an alcoholic, so I think he meant it as a warning," he laughs.
However, there's no getting away from the fact that Crowe is one of the hottest new stars around and all eyes will be on him at the forthcoming Oscar ceremony where he's up for the Best Actor award.
But, refreshingly, the in-demand star says he was equally thrilled to attend the BAFTA awards where he lost out to Jamie Bell for the Best Actor award.
"I think it was such a smart idea to put the BAFTA's on before the Oscars," he smiles. "It's a great move. I'm from the antipodes, from a commonwealth country. Getting a nomination from the British Academy was as important as from the American Academy, absolutely."
And just to confirm that he's not bedazzled by Hollywood, the star says he could never leave his beloved Australian farm to live there.
"Living in LA would be like unrolling my swag in the office," he grins. "I just don't think it would be healthy mate."
Interview with "Master and Commander" Star, Russell Crowe
On November 9, 2003 20th Century Fox hosted a special San Diego Premiere of the epic seafaring film, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.” With a red carpet laid out on the pier between the historic 'Star of India' ship and the American tall ship 'The Rose' (refitted and used in the movie as the 'HMS Surprise'), the majesty of the film came to life as Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany joined an appreciative audience for a special outdoor screening. With the waves lapping in the background and the wind gently moving through the tall ships’ sails, the audience was transported back in time (figuratively) to witness the crew of the 'HMS Surprise' challenge its much sleeker foe from France, 'The Acheron.'
“Master and Commander” is all but guaranteed to be nominated for year-end honors. Director Peter Weir and stars Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany elegantly bring to life a tale from writer Patrick O’Brian’s historic novel series, “Master and Commander.” Following the adventures of Captain ‘Lucky’ Jack Aubrey (Crowe), “Master and Commander” takes audiences on a wild ride aboard ship around the coast of Brazil, through the dangerous storms of Cape Horn, to the far side of the world, The Galapagos Islands. Lead by Crowe and Bettany and filled with stunning scenes of battles and beauty, “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World” ultimately is the story of friendship and loyalty set against a backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars.
After having to gain weight for the part of Aubrey, Russell Crowe is back to looking fit and trim. Affable and gracious, Crowe spoke with a long line of reporters at the San Diego event. In this interview, the Academy Award-winning actor discusses balancing research and training, and working with fellow Academy Award-winner, director Peter Weir:
RUSSELL CROWE (Captain Jack Aubrey):
Can you describe the experience of filming at sea?
It’s serious business but the difference on board that boat, particularly when it’s under the diesel engines as opposed to when the diesel engines turn off and it’s just under wind power, that’s when it becomes a fascinating experience. The boat itself kind of corkscrews through the water under diesel power. When the engines are shut off, it has a bit more of a smoother run.
I understand the boat's for sale. Have you thought about buying it?
It’s been offered to me a number of times. You never know. [Turning to look at the boat] What do you think? The backyard?
Of course then you’d need about 200 people to run it.
You can probably get away with about 23 really – 23 very, very good guys (laughing).
Were there any close calls while you were shooting at sea? Was there anything that made you nervous?
Not necessarily. I think probably the most dangerous evening was when we found ourselves about 40 miles off the coast at about 9:30 at night trying to do a ship-to-ship transfer of 225 people in 8’ swells. That wasn’t a good look. But you know that’s just one of the things you have to do. It was dealt with very safely and very efficiently, quite frankly.
How difficult was it to balance the physical training, researching the role, and also trying to learn the violin?
Well, the violin was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done for films. You can take your helicopter stunts and your tiger fights and your mathematics, it’s got nothing to do with how difficult an instrument the violin is. The way I put it is, “She’s a harsh mistress but there’s a grand reward if you keep your focus.”
As an actor, what is it that director Peter Weir brings to a film that makes it so attractive?
An intelligence, an aesthetic, a level of organization, and gentlemanly work hours.
You’re in great shape now. Did you have to put on weight for this movie?
We were actually aiming for Aubrey to be a much larger bloke than we ended up doing. But Peter, about six weeks before we started rehearsing, just sort of decided he didn’t really want the Captain to be as the Captain was described in the books. He thought that at certain points, if the ship was moving, you might have to have a midshipman pushing the Captain up the stairs (laughing). At 17 stones that he’s listed at on one journey, that’s 17 by 16 – that’s 270+ pounds and on my frame, that’s going to look ridiculous. We just went with the body shape that we could find in a lot of the etchings of that period. A lot of it has to do with the way the clothes are made. We just went with that because we figured if we do another one, we’ve got plenty of time to get to 270 lbs.
Speaking of clothes, I hear you like to shop for baby clothes these days.
What’s your favorite thing to buy?
I like little jackets. I see these little jackets and I’m like, “Oh man, if I had that when I was growing up…”