He is one of the most intense actors on the Hollywood scene - one of the guys
everyone wants to work with, but does so warily. Just as his movie career
has swung back and forth from ‘nice guy' roles to some of the screen's
most lasting psychopaths, Russell Crowe's personality is a shifting landscape
of emotions. He is a paradox - always preceded by contrasting stories of
his kindness and extreme callousness. What is never in question however,
is his talent.
Although he was raised in Australia from the age of 4 onward, Crowe was actually born in New Zealand on April 7th, 1964. His parents, Alex and Jocelyn, worked as innkeepers and caterers for the most part. The family lived a very bohemian lifestyle, as they were constantly on the move. Russell did not enjoy a permanent home until the age of fourteen. His folks often worked on movie and television sets, catering food. Before long, a young Russell was doing walk-ons and bit parts in productions.
When he hit his teen years though, it was not acting which drove Crowe, but rather music. He fancied himself a rock musician, and after assuming the identity of Russ Le Roc, set about making name of himself. While not playing music, he worked part time as a waiter and bartender. Eventually, Crowe would give up on his Russ Le Roc persona. Instead, he formed a new rock group with some friends which they dubbed Roman Antix, which later evolved into 30 Odd Foot of Grunts. Russell still plays in the band when he has time off.
In 1990, Crowe finally decided to give acting another try and met with immediate success. He was a natural who drew comparisons to Brando and James Dean. Within two years of making his acting debut, he had already made eight films and earned two awards from Australia's Film Institute. The first was a Best Supporting Actor award for the film Proof, and the second was for Best Actor for the film Romper Stomper.
The latter film, about a sadistic Nazi skinhead, caused a controversial sensation largely due to the stark and gritty realism of Crowe's portrayal. He atoned somewhat by following it up with a sensitive and understated role in The Sum of Us as the gay son of good-natured Australian man reaching middle-age.
Stateside, Russell made his debut in Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead. Sharon Stone had been so impressed with the man from down under's role in Romper Stomper that she had petitioned loudly for him to be cast. Stone got her way and Russell landed the role of a former gunslinger cum preacher. Ironically, he easily outshone the lead actress (not to mention Leonardo DiCaprio) and was regarded as the only positive aspect of the film.
Next up for Crowe was another sadistic turn, this time as a computer generated killer who contains within him the psychological profiles of 183 of history's worst serial killers, in the film Virtuosity . Co-starring Denzel Washington, the film was hardly the best that either man had to offer.
Crowe was finally given his opportunity to demonstrate to America the awesome talent that so far only Australians and select critics knew about, in the film L.A. Confidential. The gritty crime movie, set in the 1950s, captivated audiences in 1997 and was overshadowed only by one other film that year (something about a big boat). The ''anti-Titanic '', the film was embraced by indie fans and film connoisseurs. Mostly everyone found Russell Crowe's portrayal of the thug-like Detective Bud White impossible to ignore.
In 1999 Crowe stars in a Disney movie named Mystery, Alaska and in The Insider. For this movie he is nominated for an Oscar but Kevin Spacey takes the Best Actor for his performances in American beauty. In 2000 Crowe stars in Gladiator, a great film from director Ridley Scott. People say that the Oscar nominations are allready for this great Roman-movie.
On the personal side, Crowe remains a rather reclusive personality. He has said that he would only live in L.A. if certain conditions were met, namely: ''if Australia and New Zealand were swallowed up by a huge tidal wave, if there was a bubonic plague in Europe, and if the continent of Africa disappeared from some Martian attack.'' Crowe prefers to remain in Australia, returning there whenever he's not working. A straightforward and downright blunt individual, he has no time for the pretense and smoke and mirrors of Hollywood.
Crowe has become notorious for his refusal to conform to Hollywood life and makes a point of being as in-your-face about it as possible. He has walked out of interviews (most infamously one with the New York Post after claiming he was bored), often purposefully blows cigarette smoke in people's faces and hurls obscenities at the slightest provocation. Crowe is often known for his frequent clashes with directors during filming. But despite his erratic, rude and abrasive behavior, he has many fans amongst Hollywood's elite - including Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, and many directors still want to work with him. The reason for this is that his talent is undeniable.
Whenever Russell Crowe graces the screen, he leaves a lasting impression on the viewer.
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