Russell Ira Crowe is an actor, film producer and musician. Although a New Zealand citizen, he has lived most of his life in Australia.
Actor Russell Crowe won an Oscar for his performance in the 2000 blockbuster Gladiator and a nomination for his 2001 role in A Beautiful Mind.
“I am always described as 'Hollywood Hard Man.' It's just ridiculous. I know some hard men, mate, and I am not a hard man. I'm a guy who likes poetry, who writes songs. I put on make-up for a living. Give me a break.”
Actor Russell Crowe was born on April 7, 1964 in Wellington, New Zealand. He made a name for himself acting in Australian cinema and eventually became an international star with projects like The Insider, Gladiator (for which he won an Oscar), A Beautiful Mind and State of Play. After a singing role in Les Misérables, he’s played Superman sire Jor-El in The Man of Steel.
Russell Crowe was born on April 7, 1964, in Wellington, New Zealand. His family moved to Sydney, Australia when Crowe was four years old. He spent a good deal of time on the sets of various film and television productions, where his parents worked as caterers; at age six, Crowe was cast as an orphan in the TV series Spyforce, the first of his many small parts as a child actor.
His family returned to New Zealand in 1978, and Crowe began performing as a rock singer, billing himself as Rus le Roc and recording the prophetically titled 1980 single “I Want to Be Like Marlon Brando.” During this period, he and a friend formed Roman Antix, which later evolved into 30 Odd Foot of Grunts, a rock band for which Crowe sings, plays guitar and writes lyrics.
He returned to Australia in the early 1980s to pursue his acting career, winning a role in a production of the musical Grease in 1983. From 1986 to 1988, Crowe starred in a touring production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. A role in the stage musical Blood Brothers in 1989 led to his first feature film, Blood Oath (1990, released in the U.S. as Prisoners of the Sun). His other early films included The Crossing (1990), which marked his first leading role, and The Efficiency Expert (1991, released in the U.S. as Spotswood), with Anthony Hopkins and Toni Collette.
His breakthrough roles showcased two very different sides of Crowe—in 1992’s Proof, he played a gentle, gullible dishwasher, earning an Australian Film Institute Award for Best Supporting Actor; he won the Best Actor statue the next year, for his turn as a brutal Nazi skinhead in the controversial film Romper Stomper. His next and equally iconoclastic role was as a gay plumber living with his widowed father in The Sum of Us (1994).
In 1995, Crowe made his American film debut, appearing with Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman and Leonardo DiCaprio in the offbeat Western The Quick and the Dead, which met with a mediocre critical and popular reception. That same year, he played SID 6.7, a virtual reality outlaw created as a composite of more than 150 serial killers (SID stands for Sadistic, Intelligent and Dangerous) who is hunted by Denzel Washington in the poorly rated sci-fi thriller Virtuosity. He also played the romantic leads in the little-seen films Rough Magic (1995), opposite Bridget Fonda, and Breaking Up (1997), opposite Salma Hayek.
Though many insiders pegged him as “one to watch,” no one in America really paid attention to Crowe until L.A. Confidential, the highly acclaimed 1997 neo-noir film that probed the dark underside of Los Angeles in the 1950s. Crowe played the brutal, forthright cop Bud White, one of a trio of very different policemen—the film also starred Kevin Spacey and fellow Australian Guy Pearce—who stumble upon a twisted and murderous conspiracy. Crowe’s simmering performance (including steamy love scenes with co-star Kim Basinger) earned him rave reviews and a certain measure of recognition among American moviegoers.
Crowe’s first starring role of 1999 came in Mystery, Alaska, a poorly received comedy written by David E. Kelley and co-starring Burt Reynolds. He had a good deal more success with his next film, The Insider, based on the true story of an ex-tobacco company executive, Jeffrey Wigand, who is convinced by a TV news producer to blow the whistle on the powerful tobacco industry. Despite mediocre box office, The Insider, which was directed by Michael Mann and also starred Al Pacino, garnered a huge amount of critical praise—including Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Director.
Crowe’s intense, Oscar-nominated performance as the reluctant Wigand was arguably the most remarkable aspect of the film; the actor gained 35 pounds for the role and was nearly unrecognizable in a thinning gray wig.
In 2000, Crowe vaulted to A-list Hollywood stardom with his charismatic performance as a Roman general-turned-vengeful-slave in Gladiator, the ambitious Roman epic and blockbuster summer hit directed by Ridley Scott and costarring Joaquin Phoenix. The film garnered 12 Academy Award nominations, including a second straight Best Actor nod for Crowe. On Oscar night in March 2001, Crowe beat out Hollywood stalwart Tom Hanks, among others, to take home the Oscar. Gladiator won in five categories, including the night's biggest honor, Best Picture.
Also in 2000, Crowe starred in the romance/adventure Proof of Life, as a hostage negotiator who becomes romantically entangled with his client, played by Meg Ryan, after her husband is kidnapped. (The film, like The Insider, was based on an article published in Vanity Fair.)
Bad Boy Reputation
Widespread rumors about Crowe’s brash personality only increased with his growing fame. In late 1999, he was reportedly involved in a brawl outside a bar in New South Wales, Australia. The owner of the bar, who claimed to have a security videotape that showed the actor had initiated the brawl, was subsequently charged with blackmail after allegedly attempting to extort money from Crowe in exchange for the video. Crowe's “bad boy” reputation and smoldering on-screen intensity have inspired comparisons to the young Brando. Although he is reportedly intense and demanding while working on set, a number of co-stars have publicly praised him for his charming, professional demeanor.
Crowe made even more headlines during the summer of 2000, after the huge success of Gladiator, when he became romantically involved with his Proof of Life costar, Meg Ryan, and was mentioned as a factor in her separation from her husband of nine years, actor Dennis Quaid. Quaid filed for divorce in July 2000. Crowe and Ryan split in late December of that year.
On the more bizarre side, news broke in the spring of 2001 that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had launched an investigation into a rumored plot to kidnap Crowe. He attended the January Golden Globes ceremony flanked by FBI agents in tuxedos, was guarded by Scotland Yard at the London premiere of Proof of Life in February, and reportedly increased his own personal security force as well. Rumored to have a quick temper, Russell Crowe has allegedly been involved in several altercations. In addition to the 1999 bar fight in Australia, three years later he was said to be involved in a bathroom brawl in a trendy London restaurant. In 2005, Crowe made headlines once again when he was arrested and charged with second-degree assault after throwing a telephone at a hotel employee in New York City.
'A Beautiful Mind'
In 2001, Russell Crowe starred in A Beautiful Mind, an acclaimed biopic about the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash. The film, directed by Ron Howard, costarred Ed Harris and Jennifer Connelly. For the third year in a row, Crowe's bravura performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. After Crowe's lead role in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003), he and Howard teamed up again for the 1930s boxing drama Cinderella Man (2005) about Jim Braddock, the real-life boxer who defeated heavyweight champ Max Baer in a 15-round bout. Other releases for the decade included A Good Year (2006), American Gangster (2007), Body of Lies (2008)—all three of which were directed by Ridley Scott as well—and State of Play (2009).
Crowe married singer and actress Danielle Spencer in April 2003; the couple split in 2012 after nearly a decade together. They have two sons, Charles and Tennyson.
'Les Misérables' and 'Man of Steel'
Crowe reunited with Scott for the fifth time in the director’s 2010 adaptation of Robin Hood, which costarred Cate Blanchett and Max von Sydow. After being featured in 2012’s martial arts flick The Man With the Iron Fist, the actor put his singing chops to use in the musical Les Misérables, released in December. The Oscar-nominated Tom Hooper film, costarring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and Amanda Seyfried, saw Crowe portraying obsessed constable Javert.
Crowe’s next major roles came in 2013 with the winter release of Broken City, in which he portrayed a mayor up for reelection, and the summer release of Man of Steel. Directed by Zack Snyder, Steel retells the story of the DC Comics hero Superman, starring Henry Cavill in the title role and Crowe as his Kryptonian father, Jor-El.
Clancy's comment: One of our better imports.