It all began when I saw a picture of him, a publicity photo for Virtuosity, back in ’94 or ’95. “Wow, that’s a really handsome guy,” I thought, “never heard of him.” I eventually saw the film, either rented or cut-up on television, about four years later, and while it was really rather terrible, the villain was charismatic, magnetic, and utterly, terrifyingly, insane. That scary young man, Russell Crowe, would, in a few years, become one of Hollywood’s notable bad boys, heir apparent to the talents and troubles of such actors as Brando, Burton, Harris, and Reed. In 1997 he gave something of a break-out role in the excellent L.A. Confidential, and two years later would earn his first Oscar nomination in the Jeffrey Wigand biopic The Insider. I, not being much of a movie buff at the time, had largely forgotten about him and knew nothing of his successes until that first trailer for Gladiator. I was completely excited about the movie, in part because it looked really good, and in part because that guy I had drooled over in a magazine was now starring in an epic. The rest, for Russell Crowe and me, is history.
As I’m sure you know, Gladiator went on to the biggest hit of 2000, making a proper star out of Crowe, and winning 5 Oscars, one of which was Crowe’s (moderately deserved – more on that later) Best Actor. More nominations, collaborations with big-name stars and directors, and tabloid stories followed, and today, Russell Crowe has a somewhat skewed reputation: that of a difficult, temperamental guy, something of an “asshole” in the common eye, who nonetheless takes his art seriously and generally makes really good movies, at least from a critical, if not a monetary, perspective.
For my part, Crowe has become my favorite actor, someone whose involvement in a project will guarantee my seeing it, and possibly a driving factor in my general interest in movies. Ask anyone who knows me, and I guarantee you that they may not know my birthday, or the name of my hometown, but they can probably tell you my #1 movie star crush. Sad, but true. To date, I have seen 25 of Crowe’s films. I can only think of one out of those 25 that I really just didn’t enjoy. Some were really good, some were only so-so, and in some, Crowe might’ve only had 10 lines, but he never disappoints, and I am always interested in what’s coming next.
What do I like about him? I like his charisma – even when he’s playing some fat, pasty, jerk (Body of Lies); you really can’t take your eyes off him. I like that he often disappears into roles. From The Insider to Gladiator to A Beautiful Mind, it’s difficult to wrap your mind around those men all being the same person. I like his intensity, I like his range, and, well, I guess I just think he’s really dreamy. Yes, even still. To each his own, no?
So, there you have it. Just to get it out of the way and get on with other movies and other actors — I totally love Russell Crowe. I really don’t care about his personality, or what the critics think of him, or his movies. That’s a lie, as anyone who knows me can tell you, actually: I ranted and raved when Robin Hood came out and lots of folks out on the Internet tried to call him fat. Ridiculous. Anyway. The point I was going to make is that what we like and are convinced by is most often totally subjective. I find Crowe to be absolutely convincing 99% of the time, but I know plenty of people who don’t. I, for one, will look forward to anything he tries his hand at, and with my (our?) track record, I’ll probably like it. So, here’s to Russell Crowe. May he have a long and illustrious career, if he wants it.
In the future, I will write some posts about my favorite Crowe films/performances. I was going to do it all in one post, but that seemed slightly too epic, and I figured I’d help myself out down the road. In addition, you can look forward to a review of the film I just watched the other day, Proof, not to be confused with Proof of Life. Very different. I promise.