Interview: Russell Crowe

By Katherine Tulich

All the pieces are falling into place for Australian actor, Russell Crowe. He is fast becoming one of the most in-demand young actors in the industry. Since his debut opposite Bryan Brown in Blood Oath, Russell Crowe has gone on to feature in many varied roles. He starred in the acclaimed The Crossing which earned him his first AFI nomination for Best Actor. He is currently starring in Proof with Hugo Weaving and Genevieve Picot, and will next appear in Spotswood with Anthony Hopkins and Ben Mendelsohn. In the meantime, he is filming The Great Pretender in Perth and then goes on to make Romper Stomper, a film about an urban street gang in Melbourne. Along the way, RC has been gathering high praise from his peers. The Crossing director, George Ogilvie, commented that: 'Russell reminds me of James Dean in that he has the same charisma that Dean had. He's the sort of actor you watch working and you have no idea what he'll do next. That's rare, that mystery about him.' Anthony Hopkins commented while filming Spotswood that RC reminded him of his own earlier performances as a young actor. RC is part of the new breed of actors--fresh, young and talented--who have sprung forth in Aussie cinema over the past few years. Actors like Mendelsohn, Noah Taylor, Claudia Karvan -and RC have ignited a new flame on the screen with films like The Crossing, The Big Steal, and Flirting, amd cinema audiences are responding. 'There are a lot of good young actors around at the moment,' RC says, 'I think the industry gets to a certain point, then there is some kind of re-birthing process. We had a dip in th industry lately, now we're coming out of it. There's a sense of optimism in the industry again and the next generation of actors are getting their chance.'

RC grew up surrounded by the atmosphere of movie producers. His parents were location caterers on various Australian TV shows like Spyforce and RC spent all his school holidays around film and TV sets. His parents moved to New Zealand when he was 14 and RC embarked on a rock and roll career, playing in various rock bands before getting the role of Eddie/Dr. Scott in The Rocky Horror Picture Show which toured New Zealand in 1986 and Australia in 1987-88. Moving back to Australia, RC pursued acting, appearing in the theatre before landing his first screen role in Blood Oath. Says RC: 'I didnŐt have a lot of dialogue, but I was in many scenes and it gave me the chance to observe how Bryan Brown works.' In Proof, RC plays Andy, an amiable kitchen hand who befriends blind man Martin(Hugo Weaving). The film explores the psyche of a blind man and how his perception of truth relies on the sight of others, and what happens when you can no longer trust that. 'It's about the search for truth, and the trials of a blind photographer whose journey begins when he befriends my character,' RC explains. 'Andy is really open. He is the only person in the film who instinctively gives love. The others are searching for it and have no idea how to go about it.'

Proof is the debut feature film by writer/director Jocelyn Moorehouse, and RC was immediately attracted to the film's originality. 'Right from the beginning, as soons as I read the script, I knew this was something special,' says RC. 'It was an idea that was so unique and so complete. The message of the film is quite simple, yet it's put across in a very funny way.' Proof was selected for screening at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival this year. RC, who attended the festival, was delighted to see the film garner such praise. 'When the film fans who make their annual pilgramage to Cannes appreciate your film, it really means something as they are comparing it to a lifetime of film appreciation,' he says. Proof is receiving a similar response here. It has been nominated for eight AFI awards, including Best Film, Director and Screenplay. RC has been nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.

The next film RC will be seen in is Spotswood where he plays an unscrupulous worker in a moccasin factory in a Melbourne suburb of the 1960s. 'The character was really fun to play. It was a total pardody of ambition,' RC says. Although it was only a small role, RC says the main incentive to appear in Spotswood was the chance to work with Anthony Hopkins. 'He was wonderful to work with,' says RC. 'There's nothing grandiose about him. He takes a small gem of an idea in rehearsal and just keeps building on it. He's been a very capable actor for so many years. People seem to be rediscovering him after his role in The Silence of the Lambs. RC is currently making The Great Pretender, produced and directed by David Elfick(Newsfront, Starstruck). It's a coming of age story set in Perth and Kalgoorlie in 1957. RC plays Arthur, a bureaucratic Welshman. Although, again, it's only a small role, for RC itŐs the kind of characters he plays rather than the star billing that matters: 'I had so much advise after The Crossing--do this, do that, you should only do lead roles. But I've always done what's interested me. I don't think on the level of what's going to make me a star. Film is such an interesting medium to work in without having to worry about that. I wait for good roles, not lead roles.'

Movie 91 No 5