Unlike fellow actor Mel Gibson, or a few prominent directors (Peter Weir, Bruce Beresford, Gillian Armstrong, etc.), Russell Crowe insists he has no intention of foregoing a budding film career in Australia just for the sake of "going Hollywood" -- regardless of how well the futuristic action movie Virtuosity might perform at the box office, and not even if his flamboyant turn as a "nanotech synthetic cyber-villain" named Sid 6.7 catapulted him to superstar status of Gibsonian proportions.
"Yeah, right, like that's really going to happen," Crowe deadpans during a recent interview. Seriously, though, he continues, "I don't really acknowledge whatever status I have in Australia, so there's no point worrying about it over here, where I have absolutely no status to begin with.
"I mean, I consider it a great privilege that I get to come to the States and make movies, but I live in Sydney, you know? That's my home, my base. I'm certainly not removing myself from the Australian industry by accepting work in Hollywood. If there's a goal to any of this, it'd be getting into a position where I could attract international financing to keep making films in Australia," the actor submits.
There, the 31-year-old Crowe has earned praise from critics and audiences alike for his amazing diversity in a number of recent films: terrifying as the leader of a sect of sick neo-Nazi skinheads in Romper Stomper; insinuating as a dishwasher who pulls the wool over a blind man's eyes in Proof; heartfelt as the gay rugby-playing plumber and dutiful son in The Sum of Us.
Here, Crowe went largely (or luckily) unnoticed in his first Hollywood outing (last year's Sharon Stone debacle The Quick and the Dead), but the actor's destined to leave a much stronger impression as the virtual reality-based villain of Virtuosity, chewing the computer-generated scenery as a composite of 183 aberrant criminal personalities run amok in 1999 L.A.
"I enjoyed the hell out of it, and the more physically active it got, the more fun I had, plus I got to say some damn cool things," Crowe enthuses with a grin. "The whole sci-fi, special-effects genre is an area I've never gone into before, and it was neat just finding out some of the little things, like watching them make the blue nano-goo that Sid bleeds out of maple syrup and crushed eyeliner pencils."
Although he's "about as familiar with the whole concept of virtual reality as the average Joe on the street," Crowe admits he found Sid 6.7 "far too dense a character and over-the-top to turn away from." After a pause, he adds, "The role conjured up everyone from Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson, to my dentist and maybe a couple of years from Bobby Darin's life, with a lot of stops in between."
Crowe says he hopes to make a few more stops in Hollywood -- in between film projects in Australia, that is. "I honestly don't know how long I could take it over here," he explains. "I had to argue my way out of a discussion with the Paramount people about taking a limo to the screening the other night. It's ridiculous. I kept saying, 'I do have my own legs, mate, you know?' I mean, it's not just some frivolous form of rebelliousness for the sake of being cool or whatever. Aside from the practical consideration of it, that a block and a half is a block and a half, it's such a waste of money. Doesn't Paramount know there are whole countries falling apart out there?"
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