Perhaps the most interesting (and subtle) revelation from Russell Crowe at his surprise
Sydney press conference today is not something that can be captured in a five second grab
or a single sentence. It is to be found between the lines of his reply to our question
asking how has Gladiator impacted on his stakes in Hollywood so far. His answer begins
with a thoughtfully phrased preamble…."I had to do a substantial amount of work
defending my position … defending Maximus, keeping his moral line for the course of
"a significant piece of art"
He then gives a quick impression of a crass Hollywood suit getting excited and throwing
ideas around, like asking why can't Maximus might just make love to somebody… grab
some poor woman from the crowd…. Delivered with a shrill Californian accent, it's
very funny. And informative.
As he goes on to explain his battles to retain the character of Maximus, it is pretty
evident that he had been put under a lot of pressure - he doesn't say that, nor does he
indicate from where it came - to add some of those insurance elements studios like: sex.
As he says, "This is a really long way of saying they start calling you 'an asshole'
(accent included). But that's just the way I do it," he says with a shrug. "That
has a certain fallout - people wait and see whether you're an asshole worth hiring or
whether you're not." Once Gladiator start taking the bucks, he will know.
What he does note is that "the meek are not on the phone any more. I just tend to
be talking to people who have very strong personalities and wanna make a significant piece
of art when they make their film and they want to have somebody who's ready to come along
and want to work. And work on behalf of the character. . . " That's him, of course.
"a combo of confidence"
In other words, Russell Crowe takes no shit. But we knew that.
What gave the press conference a real buzz was that he was able to articulate his
attitude with a combo of confidence and restraint: he was neither arrogant nor falsely
modest. It was never going to happen, his physical presence to promote this film, an epic
that puts him even further centre stage after The Insider as the actor with universal
appeal, with enviable range and an edginess to match Brando. So why and how is it that he
suddenly appeared with less than 24 hours notice?
"This is the truth folks," he begins without swagger. "My uncle David's
very sick in New Zealand. I'm in the middle of making a movie; there's no way they'd let
me out of that film to visit a sick relative. Luckily, coincidentally, Gladiator is
opening in Australia this week. That's not to say I wouldn't have come down here
otherwise, but that's the truth. The thing is, to come down here to talk to you folk lets
me visit David in New Zealand this weekend."
Crowe, shooting Proof of Life with Meg Ryan, will then return to Ecuador before
completing the shoot in England in late June 2000.
"I have some relationships going back a long time"
On other topics: has the media been rough on him, asked Louise Keller? "Look, I
have some relationships going back a long time and many of the conversations I have about
my job are very pleasant." But, and he is chuckling, "I don't really care …
it doesn't impact on me…I don't allow it to. And that goes for people who praise me,
as well, mate, you know…."
Speaking about his character, Crowe is serious: talking about his research, he says he
found a Book of Meditations that was written by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius (played by
Richard Harris). "He was a philosopher . . .so I was able to use the Meditations to
drive Maximus internally, which gave us a whole spiritual plane that wasn't actually in
the story to begin with, which grounds him in reality."
Asked about his relationship with the late Oliver Reed, Crowe was frank: "It's
funny, some people you get on with and some people you don't …. have a magnificent
relationship with Richard Harris - I mean he was a two bottle-vodka a day bloke…but
he also had the understanding to give up drinking. Anyway, we clicked. Oliver and I, we
just worked together…we discussed what we had to do, but we didn't really