Nationality: New Zealander. Born: Russell Ira Crowe, Strathmore Park, New Zealand, 7 April 1964. Career: Began appearing in television programs at age six, in the Australian TV series Spyforce ; appeared on TV series The Young Doctors , 1976, and Police Rescue , 1992; stage actor, beginning in the mid-1980s; appeared in a touring production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Awards: Australian Film Institute Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role, for Proof , 1991; Australian Film Institute Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role, 1991, and Australian Film Critics Circle Best Actor Award, 1992, for Romper Stomper ; National Board of Review Award for Best Actor and National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Actor, 1999, and Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor and Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, 2000, for The Insider. Agent: c/o George Freeman, William Morris Agency Inc., 151 S. El Camino Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.
Blood Oath ( Prisoners of the Sun ) (Wallace) (as Lieutenant Jack Corbett); The Crossing (Ogilvie) (as Johnny)
Brides of Christ (Cameron) (as Dominic Maloney); Spotswood ( The Efficiency Expert ) (Joffe) (as Kim Barrett); Hammers over the Anvil (Turner) (as East Driscoll); Proof (Moorhouse) (as Andy)
For the Moment (Johnston) (as Lachlan); Romper Stomper (Wright) (as Hando)
Silver Brumby ( The Silver Stallion: King of the Wild Brumbies ) (Tatoulis) (as The Man); Love in Limbo (Elfick) (as Arthur Baskin)
The Sum of Us (Dowling) (as Jeff Mitchell)
The Quick and the Dead (Raimi) (as Cort); Virtuosity (Leonoard) (as Sid 6.7); Rough Magic (Peploe) (as Alex Ross)
No Way Back (Cappello) (as Zack Grant)
Breaking Up (Greenwald) (as Steve); Heaven's Burning (Lahiff) (as Colin O'Brien); L.A. Confidential (Hanson) (as Bud White)
Mystery, Alaska (Roach) (as John Biebe); The Insider (Mann) (as Jeffrey Wigand)
Gladiator (Scott) (as Maximus Decimus Meridius); Proof of Life (Hackford)
Flora Plum (Jodie Foster)
"Coming on Strong," interview with David Wild, in Us Weekly (New York), no. 275, 22 May 2000.
Epstein, Jan, "Demon Dogs: L.A. Confidential ," in Cinema Papers (Fitzroy, Victoria), no. 121, November 1997.
Chagollan, Steve, "Wonders from Down Under," in Variety (New York), 3–9 January 2000.
Corliss, Richard, "Gladiator: The Empire Strikes Back," in Time (New York), 8 May 2000.
Luscombe, Belinda, "Of Mad Max and Madder Maximus," in Time (New York), 8 May 2000.
Smith, Kyle, "Crowe Feat," in People Weekly (New York), vol. 53, no. 20, 22 May 2000.
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Russell Crowe has been smoking cigarettes since he was ten years old, and did not feel compelled to alter this habit before, during, or after playing the role of an anti-tobacco activist in The Insider. As an actor though, he did alter much else about himself to become Jeffrey Wigand, the middle-aged former head of research and development at a tobacco company who decided to release secret studies exposing the duplicity of his employer. He successfully transformed himself from an athletic, healthy 35-year-old into a paunchy, gray middle-aged man.
This outward transformation, for which he gained 35 pounds, was not the only way Crowe inhabited the role, and he ultimately won widespread acclimation and an Oscar nomination for this performance. The actor already had developed a phenomenal ability to portray with great subtlety the interior conflicts of a variety of men, which first became apparent to American audiences when two Australian films in which he starred, The Sum of Us and Romper Stomper , were released here.
In the former film, Crowe played an affable young gay man whose father lives with him, and who is feeling a little crowded by the father's enthusiastic acceptance of his love life. This tension is not expressed so much in confrontations as in the edgy ways Crowe moves his body and uses his eyes as his father interacts with his current boyfriend. In Romper Stomper he plays a young man on the other end of the spectrum, a seething skinhead who charismatically leads his friends to follow him into racist attacks on Asians and others whom he feels are crowding his already constricted environment.
Crowe was born in New Zealand, and his parents moved the family to Australia when he was four. His mother became a caterer on movie sets, and took her young son along on her assignments, which led to his early feeling of comfort around the apparatus of filmmaking; he started acting in a television series when he was six years old. The star of that series was Jack Thompson, who would later play the father in The Sum of Us. Crowe continued to act, and as a young adult his work began to attract more and more critical attention. At 19 he broke into musical theater, where he received one of his favorite roles, that of Dr. Frankenfurter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show in which he delivered 415 performances. He was nominated for an Australian Film Institute (AFI) Award as Best Supporting Actor in 1990 for The Crossing , and won that award the following year for his performance in Proof. Then came Romper Stomper in 1992, for which he won both the AFI and Australian Film Critics Award for Best Actor, but also endured along with the film a barrage of criticism for seeming to make racist aggression attractive.
The intensity of his Romper Stomper performance attracted the attention of Sharon Stone, who was at the time putting together a package called The Quick and the Dead , in which she would star as a female gunfighter. Stone was so impressed with Crowe that she held up production of her film to allow him to finish his work on The Sum of Us. Unfortunately for Crowe, both The Quick and the Dead and his next film, Rough Magic , won almost no attention at the box office.
Then came L. A. Confidential. In retrospect it seems almost miraculous that such a movie could come out of the Hollywood production system. Based on a James Ellroy novel, typically for that author dark and convoluted, the story seemed to many untransformable into film. It also cast the movie capital in an unsavory light, exposed many of the illusions that keep the industry going, and argued that the environment in which Hollywood functioned was also riddled with corruption.
Furthermore, the director, Curtis Hanson, had only helmed a couple of relatively low-budget projects ( The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and The River Wild ), and he had put together a cast of largely unknown actors. But through the strength of its unrelenting vision and the over-all excellence of its ensemble performance, L. A. Confidential garnered widespread critical acclaim, multiple awards and nominations, and was included on more than 100 critics' Top Ten lists.
Among the ensemble cast, Crowe was frequently singled out for his portrayal of the conflicted police detective, Bud White, whose visceral reaction to violence against women frequently erupted into violence against the perpetrators. Crowe says of Bud White that "he makes a very healthy statement through his anger and his fighting and his resolve at the end. There's a purity about him." The opportunity to make statements about social issues is part of what has attracted Crowe to such varied projects as Romper Stomper , The Sum of Us , L. A. Confidential , and The Insider. While Crowe is widely viewed as a rising star, he does not fully embrace the movie establishment. He lives on a station (ranch) in northern Australia with his parents and brother, and spends part of his energy in a rock band named Thirty Odd Food of Grunts, which mostly tours Australia and New Zealand. While he is attractively diffident about his own work—"I've made 18 movies and I think I've given 18 bad performances," he told Kim Basinger in an interview published in Interview —other film professionals are much more enthusiastic.
"He reminds me of myself as a young actor," says Sir Anthony Hopkins, who acted with him in The Efficiency Expert. George Ogilvie, who directed Crowe in The Crossing , compares him with James Dean. Most tellingly many people, including The Insider director Michael Mann, see hints of the young Marlon Brando in Crowe's work. Perhaps Crowe agrees. "Generally I'm not somebody who covets roles, even if someone else gets a part that I'd like to play," he told Basinger. "However, I would have liked to do the first run of A Streetcar Named Desire. "