Crowe’s talent, drive catapult career

Showest Male Actor of the Year

Russell Crowe Filmography

If demanding perfection of oneself and others makes an actor difficult, then Russell Crowe, according to those who’ve worked with ShoWest’s Male Actor of the Year, is guilty.

But it’s the kind of “difficult” those who want to make good films welcome, and it’s the way the Australian actor has worked since his career began.

“He was always trying to get the best out of his role and got furiously angry with himself if he thought he’d failed in a special moment or reaction,” says Geoffrey Wright, who directed Crowe in the Oz film “Romper Stomper.” “He was very methodical in his determination, very practical, very disciplined and work-oriented. He despised laziness or a lack of preparation in those around him if he ever saw it.

Passion and drive

“That’s the kind of difficult nature you want — difficult because he wants the best out of himself and those around him. It’s not about getting bigger trailers or any of that crap, it’s about the work.”

Fellow Aussie director John Tatoulis, who worked with Crowe on “The Silver Stallion,” agrees the thesp’s emotion and drive has always been palpable. He also believes that they are a boon to any director.

“He was very passionate and could get very angst-ridden and fiery at times, but then, it was always about the work,” says Tatoulis. “I don’t mind a bit of emotion if it’s the cause of doing your best. Russell was always trying to do the best performances he could.”

American filmmakers took notice. Not surprisingly, Crowe’s attitude and methods didn’t change when he came into the industry’s spotlight with his performance as Bud White in “L.A. Confidential,” the 1997 Oscar-nominated picture.

Curtis Hanson, who directed the film, says he was aware of Crowe’s work and reputation, and was impressed and intrigued. Looking for an actor who was not well known to play the complex role, Hanson flew Crowe to the U.S., and with a handheld camera taped the thesp reading the part.

“He was just dynamite,” recalls Hanson. “Later after thinking about it and going through his process, he added a lot of nuances but in that original test the combination of magnetism and intensity and appeal was just so clear.”

Like Wright, Hanson says Crowe’s approach to acting was not enervating but appreciated.

Quest for perfection

“Russell is relentless in his attention to detail. He had questions about literally every line,” he says. “Then once he was comfortable, his commitment to the lines and their intent was so complete. In that sense, I found Russell to be among the most trusting of actors with whom I’ve ever worked.”

Walter Parkes, who executive produced “Gladiator,” which has garnered Oscar noms for picture as well as actor, for Crowe, says that when the creative team at DreamWorks began its search to cast Maximus, Crowe’s name came up continually.

“There were very few actors that had both the physicality and acting ability to play that role,” says Parkes. “We loved him all the way back to ‘Romper Stomper,’ where he somehow made a racist, violent skinhead completely accessible.”

Parkes says Crowe’s uniqueness comes from an ability to combine the integrity and honesty of a character actor with the charisma of a star. He also stresses that Crowe is fearless in a way that can only contribute to a film’s success.

“Russell is a great collaborator and a worthy adversary,” says Parkes. “He’s not afraid to question the logic of any moment in the script. He’s the kind of an actor who’s almost incapable of lying in some ways. He requires the scenes to be legitimate in and of themselves, and by demanding the same thing from those around him, he causes the movie to be better.”

Crowe has made his presence felt in all of his work and his ability to actualize the characters he plays has made a lasting impact on those who have worked with him. His performances have elevated his movies to the point where the filmmakers have difficulty picturing their movies without him.

“Bud White is a tricky part. He’s a brute but he has to give the audience glimpses of the sensitive soul hidden behind the facade and make them become emotionally invested in him,” says Hanson. “Russell pulled off that sleight of hand so brilliantly that I couldn’t imagine any other actor playing the part.”

“In retrospect,” says Parkes, “I’m not sure if there wasn’t a Russell Crowe there would be a ‘Gladiator.'”

Any rumors of difficulty have not scathed the career of the uncompromising Crowe. He will next star in the Ron Howard-helmed “A Beautiful Mind,” set to bow in December, and next year will direct “A Course in Miracles.”

He is one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood and to those who knew him since his early years, the only surprise is that it took so long.

“The Americans spent several years admitting he was wonderful but being unsure of his appeal, thinking he was too earthy and not pretty,” says Wright. “In retrospect, that fear looks absurd.”

Michaela Boland contributed to this report.

RUSSELL CROWE B.O. FILMOGRAPHY

(B.O. through 2/25/01)  
Title Domestic B.O.*
Gladiator (DreamWorks/U, ’00) 187
L.A. Confidential (WB, ’97) 65
Proof of Life (WB, ’00) 33
The Insider (BV, ’99) 29
Vituosity (Par, ’95) 24
The Quick and the Dead (Sony, ’95) 19
Mystery, Alaska (BV, ’99) 9
The Sum of Us (Samuel Goldwyn, ’95) 0.8
Proof (Fine Line, ’92) 0.5
Rough Magic (Samuel Goldwyn, ’97) 0.2
The Efficiency Expert (Miramax, ’92) 0.2
Romper Stomper (Academy, ’93) 0.2
Prisoners of the Sun (Skouras, ’91) 0.05
For the Moment (Jar, ’96) 0.02
Breaking Up (WB, ’97) 0.01
Total Domestic B.O. 368
*in millions of $

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