Spotlight: Russell Crowe

Imagine picking up the phone one day and hearing that Sharon Stone want you in a big way. Most 30-year-old Australian actors with Hollywood aspirations would probably pack a case of Vegemite and hop on the next L.A.-bound Quantas flight. But Russell Crowe, whom Stone handpicked to co-star as the outlaw turned priest in this month's western, The Quick and the Dead, could afford to play it cool. Since he began acting in movies just five years ago, he has starred in fourteen films and, in the process, has become the most talked-about Aussie actor since Mel Gibson--though the two are hardly competing for parts. "I work at the left of center, far left," says Crowe, whose unconventional roles include a neo-Nazi skinhead (Romper Stomper) and an underachieving dishwasher (Proof). "Let's just say my films tend to go down extremely well in places like New York." But now that he's made his U.S. film debut, Crowe will be flying high in the land of the octoplex as well. He's also currently starring in The Sum of Us, in which he plays the gay son of a widower; later this year he'll co-star with Bridget Fonda in a New Age romance, Rough Magic. And next summer he'll play opposite Denzel Washington in the futuristic crime drama Virtuosity. The latter may be the most appropriate role for a man given to such a range of characters: Crowe plays a villain with 183 personalities. "These days," he says, "that one seems most like me."--David Hochman