Russell Ira Crowe
Born: April 7, 1964
Birthplace: Strathmore Park
(a suburb of Wellington), New Zealand
Parents: Alex and Jocelyn
Notable ancestry: Norwegian, Maori
Brown hair, blue/green eyes; he describes himself as just under 6 feet tall
Married Danielle Spencer, April 7, 2003.
Cinderella Man (2005)
Master & Commander (2003)
A Beautiful Mind (2001)
Proof of Life (2000)
The Insider (1999)
Mystery, Alaska (1999)
Breaking Up (1997)
Heaven's Burning (1997)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
No Way Back (1996)
Rough Magic (1995)
The Quick and the Dead (1995)
The Sum of Us (1994)
Love in Limbo (1993)
The Silver Brumby (1993) aka The Silver Stallion: King of the Wild Brumbies (1993)
For the Moment (1992)
Romper Stomper (1992)
Brides of Christ (1991) TV mini series
Hammers Over the Anvil (1991)
Spotswood (1991) aka The Efficiency Expert
The Crossing (1990)
Prisoners of the Sun (1990) aka Blood Oath
At age 6, Russell appeared in the series Spyforce; at age 12, The Young Doctors. The Young Doctors, though not critically acclaimed, ran from 1976 to 1981. It focused on the romantic relationships of the staff and patients of a large hospital and appealed to mostly young viewers.
As an adult he appeared in Police Rescue. The action/adventure series premiered in 1990 and was a spin-off of the made-for-TV movie of the same name. Each episode focused on a different rescue, with emphasis on the personal relationships of both those on the rescue squad and those rescued.
He also had a role in the miniseries Brides of Christ, which premiered in 1991 on (Australian) ABC and appeared in a few episodes of the TV show Neighbours.
In his early 20s, while living in New Zealand, Russell toured with The Rocky Horror Show. On his return to Sydney he joined up with the Australian tour. His other stage work includes Blood Brothers (Seymore Center), Simpson J. 202 (Ensemble Theatre) and the Official Tribute to the Blues Brothers (1993).
Russell ... in his own words
Russell was born into a show-business family. His maternal grandfather, Stan Wemyss, was an award-winning cinematographer during WWII. His parents, Alex and Jocelyn, were set caterers in film and television, and the family traveled extensively.
The family moved to Sydney, Australia, when Russell was 4. It was while on set that the acting bug struck. "I was on film sets and TV sets all the time between the ages of 5 and 9, and it just fascinated me. I always wanted to know what was behind the doors ... on film sets and TV sets nothing is behind them. But I kept thinking, 'If I open one of these doors, sooner or later there's going to be something there.' So I really lost any fears about TV and film performance at a young age, because I knew it was all fantasy."
He started working in television at age 6, "but I was never a child star -- I was a child extra. My parents were location caterers, so I was the annoying little kid on the set."
His first part was on the Australian television show Spyforce, directed by Jocelyn Crowe's godfather. Wearing a South Sydney jumper, he got to deliver a line to his future Sum of Us co-star, Jack Thompson. Even then, Russell had a dogged determination.
"Even at 6," he's said, "I would look at the 28-year-old guy playing the war veteran in a film and tell my parents, 'I don't know why the director doesn't see me in that role. I might be a little short, but I can do it.' "
Still, he says that as a child "I was shy. I was the sort of kid who would sign up for a talent quest and then, having done all the rehearsal and all the work, not turn up." He noted, however, that he only did that once, at age 7.
At 14, Russell returned to New Zealand to finish high school "because my dad never intended us to have been away that long. He's very much a New Zealander. But for me, the formative years in Australia set my attitudes toward life, and they're vastly different from your average New Zealander's attitudes."
So what is that difference? "New Zealanders tend to be very persistent, you know? And Australians are quite happy-go-lucky, so I've got kind of a combination of the two things."
In high school he met Dean Cochran, and the two formed the band Roman Antix. Music became a major focus in Russell's life during this period. He recorded several songs under the name Russ Le Roq. One of his early songs was "I Want to Be Like Marlon Brando."
Of his early recordings, he's said they "went rocketing straight to the bottom of the charts."
"I actually have two or three of the worst recordings in the history of the New Zealand music industry. So I've got that whole bottom end covered."
But forget about finding copies. He jokingly told talk-show host Conan O'Brien "They wouldn't release my shit on CD, man! That's an expensive medium! I'm lucky if someone writes out the lyrics and photocopies them."
After high school, he took a variety of odd jobs while pursuing his film and music careers, including "entertainment manager" at a resort island off Auckland, New Zealand, where his duties included bingo-calling.
Eventually he landed a role in a local production of Grease, then the Rocky Horror Show, which brought him back to Oz.
Russell did about 415 performances of The Rocky Horror Show from 1986 to 1988. He played Dr. Frank N. Furter, among other roles. He's said his favorite screen villain is Tim Curry as Frank N. Furter in the film version of the play, "although I was pretty good in high heels myself."
He opted not to go to Sydney's famed National Institute for Dramatic Arts, whose students have included Judy Davis, Mel Gibson, and his Romper Stomper co-star Jacqueline McKenzie. "I was a child extra and had 19 years of apprenticeship," he's said. "I go out and find the answers to the questions that become apparent to me in life, not from somebody else's list."
Instead, he took a number of odd jobs, including waiter and street performer in Kings Cross in Sydney, while going on auditions and casting calls hoping to break into film. His first film was Blood Oath, also known as Prisoners of the Sun. But his big break came at age 25, when George Ogilvie cast him in The Crossing.
At the time, Ogilvie asked which role he wanted in the film. Russell's response: "All of them." (He would eventually play Johnny Ryan in the film). He starred alongside actor Robert Mammone, who later appeared with him in Heaven's Burning, and actress Danielle Spencer, who became Russsell's girlfriend for four years. Years after breaking up, Russell and Danielle reunited and were married on April 7, 2003.
His award-winning performance in Proof followed, then came Romper Stomper, which broke box-office records in Australia, and which made Russell a star. The film also drew scathing criticism from some who called it racist and inflammatory, and praise by others who likened it to the classic film A Clockwork Orange. But Russell has continually defended the film and his decision to star in it.
"Every role has different things that speak to you," he's said. "With Romper Stomper, I was afraid of delving into the darkness of the neo-Nazi ideology on one hand, but on the other hand, I could tell that it was going to be a very important social document. That was the imperative behind my doing it."
One year after winning the Australian Film Institute's award for best supporting actor for his role in Proof, Russell won best actor for Romper Stomper.
"I don't mind being afraid of some of the characters I play, because it adds an extra level of excitement," he's said. Still, "I think it's kind of pretentious to sit there and say 'I only dance on the edge,' because that's not the human condition."
It was his electrifying performance as the vicious Hando that caught the eye of American actress Sharon Stone. She was producing and starring in a Western, Quick and the Dead, and she so desperately wanted Russell for the film that the start of production was delayed so he could finish Sum Of Us.
The Quick and the Dead quickly died at the box office, but not so Russell's film career. He went on to co-star opposite Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington in the big-studio film Virtuosity, and made smaller films including Rough Magic and Breaking Up.
And then came L.A. Confidential. In readings and a screen test -- part of which is available on the L.A. Confidential video and DVD -- Russell won over director Curtis Hanson, who had first seen him in Romper Stomper. Again Russell was taking on a character who some might not see as totally without faults, including Russell himself.
In describing his character, Bud White, Russell says, "he's a racist. He's self-righteous. He's foul-mouthed. He's a son of a bitch. However, in the course of the movie, you get an indication as to why he's taken this attitude toward life. He doesn't realize just how much he's looking for love and affection and confirmation of his good points, buried as they may be. ... I think he is a good man -- but he's very much a product of his environment and his job."
The film astonished critics and moviegoers at Cannes in 1997, and went on to win numerous film critics awards, as well as two Academy Awards. Filmmakers took notice of Russell's complex performance, and soon the scripts began piling in. As his followup to L.A. Confidential, he chose Mystery, Alaska. In it he played John Biebe, the aging captain of a pond hockey team that goes on to play the N.Y. Rangers. The film failed to score at the box office, though, or with critics.
Russell next filmed The Insider, co-starring Al Pacino and directed by Michael Mann. He earned his first Academy Award nomination ever, for his portrayal of balding, pudgy, 53-year-old Jeffrey Wigand, who blew the whistle on American tobacco companies. He lost the Best Actor award, however, to L.A. Confidential co-star Kevin Spacey.
Then came Gladiator, the movie that catapulted Russell from a well-respected but largely unknown actor to one of the biggest stars in the world. Russell played the Roman general Maximus in the Ridley Scott film. With the help of a huge marketing campaign by DreamWorks, the movie was an immediate success at the box office, and went on to become one of the best-selling DVDs of all time when it was released in that format later that year.
Russell went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for Gladiator, which also won Best Picture, among other honors.
After Gladiator came Proof of Life, a romantic adventure co-starring Meg Ryan that was released in December 2000. The film Flora Plum, to be directed by Jodie Foster, was put on hold after Russell injured his shoulder, requiring surgery. Ewan McGregor eventually took the role instead.Russell then completed A Beautiful Mind with director Ron Howard, released in December 2001. The film earned him his third consecutive Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
He is currently preparing his directorial debut with A Long Green Shore, in which he'll also star. Cinderella Man, the story of boxer Jim Braddock should be a hit at the Academy Awards this year, and A Good Year, which reunites him with Gladiator director Ridley Scott is in production.
He still calls Australia his home. In fact, after moving to Oz at age 4, he's called himself an Aussie ever since, "except when the All Blacks are playing."
He owns a farm in Nana Glen, where his parents and older brother live, as well as numerous animals he calls "my friends."
"Being on a farm, I read books," he's said. "I structure my day around the needs of my animals, not my animalistic friends."
He also owns a harbourside mansion in Sydney.
Russell On His Heritage:
He says he's "one-sixteenth Maori; I'm registered on the Maori voting poll in New Zealand." Detour Oct. 97
"I grew up in Australia so I've got aspects of both cultures. New Zealanders tend to be very persistent, you know? And Australians are quite happy-go-lucky, so I've got kind of a combination of the two things."Empire Dec. 97
"Three months being cool in Australia is a lifetime in another country. That's as good as it gets." Australian Vogue
"When you're young in Australia, you learn about the Tall Poppy syndrome. If you stick your head above the rest of the flowers, you get it lopped off." Movieline
On racism: I've seen racism from both sides of the fence. My Dad was a hotel manager for a while, back in New Zealand: the nickname for the hotel was The Flying Jug - this place was famous for fights. So I've seen racism from Maori to Samoan, Tongan to Maori, not just white to black. My maternal grandfather's mother was Maori. I have an option to vote on the Maori roll. And I've been bashed in New Zealand for being white. You can't stop and say, 'Excuse me, my grandfather's mother was a Maori.' " Juice magazine May 93
On his career:
"I wish these people that keep predicting this stardom for me would just send some money. I mean, I've got about 15 bucks in the bank at the moment." Empire Dec. 97 (Yeah right Russell and vegemite actually tastes good!)
"Generally I'm not somebody who covets roles, even if someone else gets a part that I'd like to play. I concentrate on what's actually available to me. Still, I would have liked to do the first run of 'A Streetcar Named Desire.'Get out of the way, Marlon!"
"I've made 18 movies and I think I've given 18 bad performances. I'm still prepared to believe that I'm learning this job, and sooner or later I might give a performance I like."
On stardom : "It never even pops into my head. I have a passion for my job,and wherever that actually leads is where it leads. We'll just see. I don't fit into any of the current categories."
"The only time I ever get a job in America is when all the other actors are distracted." Interview Sept. 97
"I want to do movies that have a strong sense of purpose, and work with people who have a vision," he's said. "Whether that's in a supporting or a lead capacity is neither here nor there. And if you get locked into a major-studio-only kind of career, though it may seem huge on one level, your options begin to get limited."Newsday 1995
"There are three categories of movies: a director you really want to work with on a piece you really care about; movies you make for political reasons -- the gig has a great pedigree and a great team; and there are those that are just out-and-out bribes, where they offer you so much money you only think about it for a second. The thing is, I'm not interested in category two or three." Empire Dec. 97
On Hollywood: "I'm still having conversations with people like I've just come out of the stratosphere. Everyone is always discovering me." People Oct. 7, 1997
On preparing for a role: "Effortlessness takes preparation."Detour Oct. 97
"In order to get true emotional levels, true levels of sexuality, you've got to be emotionally close to your co-star, your fellow performer. And you know that that relationship is only for the movie. I'm blown away here, where people don't even sit their actors down in the same room and have a reading."Detour Oct. 97
Russell's approach to acting: "It's about an emotional reaction. It's about where it actually gets you as an individual, because the same performance will affect a thousand people a thousand different ways." (American-Statesman 1997)
On the current media frenzy regarding his private life: "Frankly, folks, I go to work, I do my job. I really concentrate, and if you go to the cinema, pay your money and have a good time. That's the end of it, as far as I'm concerned." (Access Hollywood, Demember, 2001)
On the importance of touring with his band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts:
"If people want to inflate me or put me up somewhere where I don't think I belong, its a matter of torching it -- bringing it down to earth again and saying, 'Listen, I have exactly the same family structure, exactly the same problems, exactly the same levels of observation as you. Divide my characters and divide the cinema from who I am.' The thing about performing with a band: There is no safety net. If you want an exercise in bringing yourself back to earth, go on a rock and roll tour." Detour Oct. 97
On living in the bush:
"I'm at that point in my career where I'm being bombarded with offers -- and it's really fun, too. But if I ever feel I'm in danger of losing my perspective about the business of acting, I can always go home to the farm. My parents and older brother live there and they run the place when I'm away. I've set everything up at the farm so things should flow just fine when I'm away, and I try to be there when all the babies are being born -- we have horses, cows, dogs and chickens.
"I'm just a big softie when it comes to the farm," he adds. "These animals are my friends, and I enjoy spending time with them because they open my mind up again when the small world of show business threatens to close it down." LA Times, 1997
Did you know?
Russell is an avid guitar collector.
Director George Ogilvie (The Crossing) persuaded Russell to replace the front tooth that had been kicked out in a football match when he was 10 and never replaced. "Vaucluse Public against Beverly Hills," Russell has happily recalled. The Age November 1, 1997
Russell's cousins, Martin Crowe and Jeff Crowe, are famous cricket players in New Zealand, and apart from the Chappell brothers in Australia, have played more tests together than any other brothers.
Russell shares the same birthday as Jackie Chan and Posh Spice.
He got his middle name from his great uncle, Ira Cunningham, the head of the Animal Health Division for New Zealand and a famous scientist in his time.
what others have to say:
''Russell Crowe is the sexiest guy working in movies today.''Virginian Pilot, August 3, 1995
"He reminds me of what we imagine the American cowboy to have been like.""He's dangerous because he's always thinking." The Age Nov. 97
"Russell is a being that likes to amuse himself so much that he is amusing." "Virtuosity: The search for Sid 6.7"
"Russell is wild. Heís very intense, a very excellent actor. An actor who really comes in prepared but at the same time likes to have a good laugh.""Virtuosity: The search for Sid 6.7"
"Russell Crowe is one of the best actors I've ever worked with." Box Office magazine 1997
"He can be very difficult and certainly arrogant. When he's in a good mood, he's your next best friend, but on a bad day, he's not easy to be around." Cinefile
IT'S ALL RELATIVE (Read what Russell's late uncle has to say about his famous nephew.)
(For more quotes, visit our film pages.)
(Russell with his horse Honey on his ranch, December 2001)
CONTINUE TO PAGE 2,
Russell: Places and Other Faces
The years 2000 and 2001 were very exciting in Russell's career, be sure to see our favorite moments from them HERE and HERE. 2002 had a few good moments, too!
For all of the up-to-the minute news on Russell be sure to visit our News, Gossip and Rumors page daily!
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