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"There isn't a director who wouldn't work with me again ... maybe a few producers ... they get the mouth."  -Russell Crowe
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It was a good year for Russell Crowe, with three films one after the other, but he is making his choices with family in mind, while enjoying the rewards of cellaring his wines Ė a subject as close to his heart as making movies, he tells Martyn Palmer as A Good Year is released on DVD.

Q: What was it like working with Ridley Scott again on A Good Year?
A: He said in a magazine article a couple of months ago that he believes that we are both marginally grumpy men but that our moods significantly lightens in each otherís company (laughs). And you know, itís an incredible privilege for me to be on a Ridley Scott set. He is one of the greatest filmmakers ever to exist and for some reason he likes the way I do my stuff and I certainly love the way that he works.

Q: Youíve done three films, A Good Year, American Gangster and 3:10 to Yuma, virtually back to back. How are you managing to juggle work with family commitments and two young children?
A: Well, the thing is with the jobs Iím choosing at the moment, they donít come with a 26, 28, 30 week schedule in the way that the films I did over the last few years. So it may seem like Iím doing a lot more work but those three films you mentioned wouldnít even add up to the weeks I spent on set for Cinderella Man. So every decision I make now goes through what is right for me wife and kids.

Q. Do you like watching films on DVD yourself?
A. One of the essential things about a positive movie experience is when it says Ďthe endí you donít want it to finish. So watching a DVD is a fun thing to do because itís there for you and often thereís more material, too. Thereís a lot of great movies from the past and imagine if you could have an extra twenty minutes of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? So I think from that point of view, itís great. To me, nothing beats the community experience of a big cinema, 1,000 seats, a gigantic sound system and you are all going Ďwoooo! Ď and Ďha haí together because that adds to the experience, I think. However, from a sound quality point of view and a picture quality point of view, you very definitely can get a similar experience with what you can buy for the home nowadays. And I do understand as well, that the added on extras can make it a fantastic and fun experience at home but at the same time you can pause it so you can all have a toilet break and have a chat at half time! (laughs).

Q. There's a lot of physical comedy in A Good Year. Was it as taxing to do as the physical stuff you were asked to do in films like Gladiator?
A. Just because it's for laughs, is it easier to do the physical comedy? If you get it wrong, whether you're wrestling a tiger or whether you're trying to get out of a foot of cow shit, you're still going to bleed - it's the same thing. It's the same type of problems that you're solving every day. The thing that I've learned is that it's much more enjoyable to solve those problems with your mates, with people who you really respect and regard. Yeah, there's a certain level of excitement with working with someone new but just as your cuddles and kisses get deeper the longer your marriage goes on, the depth of communication with Ridley increases because we know each other and there's a shorthand. I can tell from 50 yards away if he's cranky about something and I can probably work out what I need to do about that as I'm walking towards him. I completely accept the role of side-kick or lieutenant working for Ridley because he's a great leader.

Q: Your character in A Good Year, Max, inherits a vineyard in the south of France. Letís talk about wine. Would you ever buy a vineyard?
A: Iíve entertained that idea a few times, particularly as New Zealand wine has such a stronghold. Iíve also had a look into it in Australia. But the type of places I have in Australia doesnít make the kind of wine I drink. To me thatís all important. I looked into making wine in the area where I live (in northern New South Wales, Australia) and itís not right for it. We have a situation where some years thereís a frost and some years there isnít and without a frost the grape isnít going to ripen in the right way. You know, I do have an interest in it but I would be more interested if I could plant on the land that I already have and know that I was going to come up with something really good. And at the moment, weíre focused on raising organic beef on our farm.

Q: Other celebrities have vineyards Ė Francis Ford Coppola, Sam NeilÖ
A: Francis makes fantastic wine and Sam has done extremely well, too. Just because you are famous that doesnít matter. It all comes down to the terrain and there is no point in planting unless itís the right place to plant. And itís like anything else if you want that result then you have to commit all the hours of your day. Ask any vintner.

Q: What was the most expensive bottle of wine you ever bought?
A: It was £3,500. A 1964 Penfolds Grange Hermitage.

Q: Where was that?
A: At a restaurant called Mirabelle in London and it was corked! (laughs). The Sommelier kept trying to convince me that what I could taste was undertones of blackcurrant and I was like Ďyou know, Iíve been drinking Penfolds for a long time and thatís a different undertone to the one Iím used to..í The cork was completely gone, it was OK on top but the rest was a mess.

Q: So did he replace it?
A: Yes he did. But not with the same year.

Q: What was the occasion?
A: We had just started filming Gladiator and I was having dinner with (actress) Connie Nielsen and she loves a glass of plonk and so we went through the library wine list, which is very good at Mirabelle, itís an extensive list. And 1964 was the year we were both bornÖ.

Q: Do you have a big wine cellar?

A: Iíve got about 3,000 bottles at the farm which is not big by other standards.

Q: Do you pick up wine from your travels?
A: Totally. Whilst I was in the Luberon making A Good Year was a good example. Iíve never really been a rose drinker but there was one particular rose that lovely. It was less syrupy than they usually are, clear and light, and I shipped some home. We also found a lovely Chateuneuf du Pape called Vieux Telegraphe, the 1995.

Q: What are your favourite wines?
A: I like fresh, clean Sauvignon Blanc that come from cold areas like Marlborough in New Zealand, some Chilean white wines, some Australian Sauvignon Blancs, but they tend to be from Victoria or Tasmania, somewhere where itís freezing (laughs). My favourite wine is Hill of Grace, a red, from near Adelaide and I think the best value wine is Cloudy Bay, a wonderful white, from New Zealand.

Q: Do you keep a bottle of Hill of Grace ready for special occasions?
A: I try and keep some in the cellar, definitely. I find a lot of the stuff about wine that you share with people is very personal. I treat Hill of Grace as a special occasion and itís like when thereís a certain level of friendship passed or been achieved or however you want to put it, itís something I definitely like to do with people, introduce them to Hill of Grace and to a person when the wine is opened and prepared properly, I would say 98 per cent of the people Iíve ever poured the wine for in a dinner situation have proclaimed it the finest wine that has ever passed their lips. Including some people with a long and grand association with the grape.

Q: Have you gone to great lengths to get wine?

A: Yeah, the Telegraphe was an example and I went to great lengths to secure that. I do remember hosting a dinner party in London once and I knew that one of the guests was very fond of Petrus and a particular year - so that was a pursuit. But then once we found it, it was a challenge coughing up that much money as well (laughs). But itís a great wine, no doubt about it. Itís a great wine and has a deserved reputation.

Q: Is wine part of romance for you?
A: Of course it is and my wife (Danielle) and I have very similar tastes in wine. Itís probably one of the bigger connections in terms of if I like it I know sheíll like it and if she likes it I just know that I will.

Q. In A Good Year, there's a scene where you become a waiter to impress the girl that you love. Have you ever done anything like that in real life?
A. I've known my wife for a very long time. We met in 1989, got married in 2003 and I did so much shit over that time to try and impress her [laughs]. I couldn't begin to tell you... eventually it must have just been the untold weight of effort that helped her to decide I was worthwhile.

Q: Can you recall any specifics?
A: I once hired a boat in Sydney Harbour. I looked up all the places for boat hire but nothing that was a reasonable size was available. The only boat that I could get to take her out for a private night on the harbour sat 150 people in the main salon. But I wanted a kitchen because I wanted to cook for her. So this thing arrived at the hotel and I was like, "oh my God" because it was just massive, empty and smelt like there were definitely a lot of 21st birthday parties held on it. I had all this fresh scampi and I was in the kitchen but it was almost a three minute walk to get from the galley to where she was sitting on the deck! It could be a comedy in itself. She thought it was way over the top because she must have thought I'd intended to get a boat that size. But like I said, there's very little I wouldn't do to try and impress my wife.

Q. Do you have a similar mentor in your life similar to the way that Henry is a mentor to Max in the film?
A. What I did with the costuming and stuff in the movie is an homage to an uncle of mine, David William Crowe. David was the only person in my family with any acting experience. He played Uncle Vanya in 1969 and with every year that went by the reviews got better and better in the memory. So he was the only one that I could go to directly to ask: "What do you think of this?" But the cricket vest, the pipe in one scene, the cigars, the layered clothing and blazer idea, that all for me was my uncle. He was very much like a Henry sort of character. Those little things that he said to me, or those opinions that he gave to me over time, which absolutely shaped the way I view life and the way I get on with my job and stuff like that.

Q: Was A Good Year an enjoyable film to make?
A: It was lovely and I had a great time. The Luberon is gorgeous. Living in a rural area that is so intensively farmed also comes with itís own great reward because you just see how it all changes and unfolds from season to season. We got there in the middle of summer and you are surrounded by green vines and green trees and two months later itís all dark reds and oranges and yellows.

Q: Max is a money making machine when we first meet him but, as a man, heís lost his wayÖ
A: Yes. Heís taken all of these wonderful things that a very smart man, Uncle Henry, taught him and he learnt them all. Theyíre inside him and in a way they are completely embedded within him. Heís taken certain things about competition that his uncle taught him and heís brought them to the forefront of his thinking, to the point where heís actually forgotten the second part of the lesson Ė that competition is fun, itís enjoyable and itís not just about the process of winning, that you must taste both sides of the game in order to fully appreciate what it is to win.

Q: How would you describe the film?
A: I think that one of the problems is that you try to market this as a romantic comedy and itís not really going to fulfil that because itís deeper than that. And whilst it may be relatively frivolous entertainment it still is a journey of self discovery or re discovery. And it has a deep quality too, itís about re-incarnation in a way. Gladiator was about death and Maximusís drive in that film was to join his wife and child in the afterlife. When we started Ridley (Scott) said ĎMaximus has got to die in the end and the studio are not going to like it and itís going to kill us for a sequel but in order for us to fulfil what weíre doing, he has to die. Itís about death.í And when we first talked about A Good Year what I liked was this ten, 12 minute synopsis he gave me and I said Ďthis is about reincarnation..í You could say that there are large parts of Max Skinner that have died and that he has lost his way. He needs to re-discover his childhood and his love of the important things in life and in a way, he is reincarnated. Also itís about how if you love someone Ė the way that Max loved his Uncle Henry Ė you keep them alive in your heart even after they have gone.

Published March 15, 2007

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Russell Crowe - in A GOOD YEAR

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