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Russell Crowe

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

A resilient leader who musters steely brawn for battle and is obsessively focused on his massive target.

Seems Russell Crowe was born to play Jack Aubrey, the fearless British sea captain who defeats one of Napoleon’s battalions in Fox’s “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.”

At least that’s the way his bosses felt.

“By far, he was at the top of the list,” says producer Duncan Henderson. “There was only a limited number of people who could have played this role.”

As for Oscar pedigree, Crowe has been the golden boy over the past few years. He was nominated for “The Insider” and “A Beautiful Mind” and won for “Gladiator.” And a dissection of Aubrey’s character traits contains bits-and-pieces of Crowe’s previous alter egos: the ethics of Jeffrey Wigand, the smarts of John Nash and the balls of Maximus.

“He’s not one of these people that accepts what everyone tells him,” says Henderson. “He brings a certain amount of friction that performers who care about a role would be expected to bring.”

Indeed, Variety’s Todd McCarthy wrote of the pic, “Standing above it all is Crowe, who carries a goodly portion of the bulk that characterized Aubrey in the novels. Crowe invests the captain with authority, hearty humor, civilized instincts and craftiness.”

Crowe’s cast was largely unknown except for co-star Paul Bettany, who also co-starred in “Mind.”

“We didn’t want to create the same dynamic we had in the previous movie,” Bettany explains. “In the sprint, you work on your character and your partner works on his. You sometimes forget the relationship that exists between you.”

If Crowe gets nominated for his fourth Oscar, he will pass Denzel Washington and William Hurt (both with three noms) and will be looking up at five-time nominees Al Pacino, Paul Muni, Robert De Niro, Tom Hanks, Gary Cooper, Frederic March, James Stewart and Gregory Peck.

Coming attractions: “Cinderella Man”

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