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They're calling him an "asshole" in Hollywood, he says, but Russell Crowe doesn't much care: he's doing it his way, and 'the meek' are not calling him. He defended his character Maximus, and he isn't going to change. Urban Cinefile editors Andrew L. Urban and Louise Keller cover his (surprise) press conference in Sydney on May 4, 2000.

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 the film."

"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 click."

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Russell Crowe


Russell Crowe presents

.. on set with director Ridley Scott

Richard Harris

the late Oliver Reid

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