Crowe, Russell


Crowe, Russell
▪ 2002

      All hailed Russell Crowe in 2001 as the New Zealand-born actor captured a best-actor Academy Award for his portrayal of Maximus, a general turned gladiator in ancient Rome. His commanding performance, which combined brutal fight scenes with emotional longing, also helped Gladiator win an Oscar for best picture and made the epic one of the highest-grossing films of 2000. The role of a warrior was not unfamiliar to Crowe, whose commitment and intensity had led to his reputation for being combative on film sets and during interviews. Such uncompromising behaviour, however, combined with charisma, dry humour, and rugged good looks, made Crowe one of Hollywood's most sought-after and talked-about performers.

      Four years after his birth, April 7, 1964, in Wellington, N.Z., Russell Ira Crowe moved with his family to Australia. He was the son of film- and television-set caterers, and he made his acting debut at the age of six on the television series Spyforce. After returning to New Zealand in the late 1970s, Crowe cofounded the rock band Roman Antix, serving as songwriter, guitarist, and lead singer; the group later reformed as 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, and in 2001 it released its second full-length compact disc, Bastard Life or Clarity. In the mid-1980s Crowe began performing in musicals, and from 1986 to 1988 he toured with The Rocky Horror Picture Show as the cross-dressing Dr. Frank N. Furter. In 1990 he moved to the big screen, appearing in Prisoners of the Sun and The Crossing. Crowe displayed an innate ability to inhabit the characters he portrayed and for his next film, Proof (1991), received a best supporting actor award from the Australian Film Institute (AFI). With the controversial Romper Stomper (1992), his career reached a turning point. As a menacing neo-Nazi, Crowe earned an AFI best actor award and attracted the attention of Hollywood. In 1995 he appeared in his first American film, The Quick and the Dead. The western, however, had little success at the box office, nor did the series of films that followed, including the cyberthriller Virtuosity (1995).

      Crowe's breakthrough came as the brutish but vulnerable policeman Bud White in the 1950s crime drama L.A. Confidential (1997). His complex performance helped make the film a commercial and critical hit and put Crowe on the Hollywood map. After learning to ice-skate for Mystery, Alaska (1999), he gained some 18 kg (40 lb) and 20 years to portray a tobacco-industry whistle-blower in The Insider (1999). Crowe immersed himself in the role and earned an Academy Award nomination for best actor. After his star-making turn in Gladiator, he appeared as a hostage negotiator opposite Meg Ryan in Proof of Life (2000). The film, however, attracted more attention for the offscreen relationship that developed between the two costars than for the onscreen action. For his next project, A Beautiful Mind, Crowe transformed himself once again, playing John Forbes Nash, a Nobel Prize-winning mathematician suffering from schizophrenia. It was a predictable choice for the unpredictable actor.

Amy Tikkanen

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▪ Australian actor
in full  Russell Ira Crowe 
born April 7, 1964, Wellington, N.Z.

      New Zealand-born Australian actor, whose commitment, intensity, and ruggedly handsome appearance helped win him an Academy Award for best actor in 2001.

      At age four Crowe moved with his family to Australia. He was the son of film- and television-set caterers, and he made his acting debut at age six on Australian television in the wartime spy adventure series Spyforce. After returning to New Zealand in the late 1970s, Crowe cofounded the rock band Roman Antix, serving as songwriter, guitarist, and lead singer; the group later re-formed as 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, and in 2001 it released its second full-length compact disc, Bastard Life or Clarity. In the mid-1980s Crowe began performing in musicals, and from 1986 to 1988 he toured with The Rocky Horror Picture Show as the cross-dressing Dr. Frank N. Furter. In 1990 he started a film career, appearing in the war drama Prisoners of the Sun and The Crossing, a drama centred on a romantic triangle. In these early efforts, Crowe displayed an innate ability to inhabit the characters he portrayed and for his next film, Proof (1991), received a best supporting actor award from the Australian Film Institute (AFI). His career reached a turning point with Romper Stomper (1992), in which he played a menacing neo-Nazi. His performance earned him an AFI best actor award and attracted the attention of Hollywood. After starring as a gay man searching for love in The Sum of Us (1994), Crowe appeared in his first American film, the western The Quick and the Dead (1995). It had little success at the box office, however, like his series of Hollywood films that followed.

  Only with the role of Bud White, a brutish but vulnerable policeman, in the 1950s crime drama L.A. Confidential (1997) did Crowe's gift for complex performance combine with a well-written story line to help produce a commercial and critical hit. He acted in a number of films in the late 1990s, earning an Academy Award nomination for his role as tobacco-industry whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider (1999). Two years later he took the academy's best actor award for his role as Maximus, a Roman general turned gladiator in Gladiator (2000). His commanding performance, which blended scenes of yearning love with those of brutal physical violence, helped make the epic one of the highest-grossing films of 2000. He won a third nomination for the best actor award with his starring role in A Beautiful Mind (2001), the story of John Forbes Nash (Nash, John F., Jr.), a real-life Nobel Prize-winning mathematician suffering from schizophrenia.

      Crowe also earned critical approval as Captain Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003), a seafaring epic based on the fiction series by Patrick O'Brian. In Cinderella Man (2005), he played real-life boxer James J. Braddock (Braddock, James J.), who staged a timely comeback to help his family out of financial hardship during the Great Depression. After portraying an outlaw in the western 3:10 to Yuma (2007), Crowe starred as an honest policeman working in a corrupt department who tries to bring a drug lord (played by Denzel Washington (Washington, Denzel)) to justice in American Gangster (2007). In 2008 he appeared as a CIA handler and family man in Body of Lies, which also starred Leonardo DiCaprio (DiCaprio, Leonardo).

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Universalium. 2010.

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