Aussie actor Russell Crowe is taking heat for the frenzied violence in his new movie Romper Stomper, about neo-Nazi skinhead gangs in Melbourne, Australia. He's ready. "Some say the mere fact that they're in a film is glamorizing (them)," Crowe says. "Then some appreciate that someone finally made a film about a very brutal subject."
The role won him the Australian equivalent of the Oscar, and here, where the film opened in selected cities, he took an award from the Seattle Film Festival. Crowe, new to U.S. screens, got high marks from The New York Times critic Stephen Holden: "(His) mixture of menace and animal magnetism suggests a post-punk answer to Marlon Brando in The Wild One." Another comparison - to fellow Aussie actor Mel Gibson - is inevitable. "Without being facetious, I put up with it all the time," says the actor, 29. "Everybody's always comparing me to someone else."
Gibson is a "very fine actor," Crowe says, adding "most of the world doesn't know where he came from to get to Lethal Weapon. He was a hugely popular stage actor before he was a movie star." Given his own comparisons, though, Crowe would like to be compared to Aussie Judy Davis.
Random thoughts on the U.S. after five weeks roaming: "When I'm somewhere rural, or in a city the size of Seattle, I really enjoy it. But L.A. has a sort of air about it, an air of violence about it, that I don't really enjoy. The line between the haves and the have-nots is written right down the middle of the city. You see it on the pavement. It's bothersome."
While Hollywood may beckon, Crowe doesn't want to look too anxious. "When I read something good here, there's already 23,000 stars lined up."
Back in his Sydney flat is a steady girlfriend: "a long-term relationship," he jokes, "with a long-suffering woman."
Three generations into cinema - his parents were set caterers, his grandfather a cinematographer - Crowe acted at age 6.
After nine Australian films in three years, next up is a musical in which he plays the famous John Belushi character, Jake Blues. This allows him to "sit in my own flat with my own mess talking to my own cockroaches."