Emmanuel Itier: How do you compare to Richie?
Russell Crowe: Richie has one thing going for him, in terms of being a policeman–money is not a motivating factor for him. But I think that’s one of the interesting things about this film–both these lead characters are morally questionable. I got some phone calls from a rapper guy who watched the movie and I hadn’t realized just how many sex scenes Richie has. “My man, Richie, my man!”
EI: What characteristics do you share with him?
RC: I don’t know. That’s too hard to start with. Let’s do something easier.
EI: If you found a million dollars in this situation, would you turn it in?
RC: If there are no attachments and I’m not required to do anything, then I’m not giving it to anybody. I’m spending it, mate. Are you crazy?
EI: What about your relationship with Ridley?
RC: It just came about naturally. We probably should have done it straight after Gladiator because we knew then that we really enjoyed each other’s company and we enjoyed the way each other worked. But I suppose it’s just not a usual thing, so he went off and did his stuff and I went off and did my stuff. He did call me about things like Black Hawk Down and Kingdom of Heaven. I was going to be doing that for a couple years, but it just worked out Cinderella Man was being shot at the exact same time he wanted to go with that. After that cycle and he did those movies without me around, we just sat down one day and we talked, and we just came to the conclusion that we liked being on the set with each other. I don’t want to disparage anybody else I’ve worked with, but I just like the way he makes a film. He has a great respect for the medium and how much it costs. He takes a very working-class attitude towards it, and I appreciate that and I enjoy it too. I like to get to work and I know we are going to achieve something every day–not only achieve something and knock over the call sheet but probably go beyond what the call sheet says, because we are very fluid together. If something’s not working, we just change it and we change it in the moment and trust our instincts about whether things are working or not. I just enjoy his company, man. I enjoy the way he thinks. He’s one of the great visual artists of our time and I’m really lucky that he happens to think what I do suits him, so it’s great.
EI: How do you deal with the Hollywood bullshit?
RC: It’s not around me all the time because I live in Australia. When you are on the set, that’s your work environment so that’s not “Hollywood.” Hollywood is this sort of stuff. Or I remember one day I was doing a press junket here, and it was such a tedious day that I decided I was going to walk back to the hotel about an hour and fifteen minutes away. So I just naively walked straight out the front gate and walked out there, and fuck, I’ve got like ten photographers following me. And they were all on the phone. Cars start coming in and then you’ve got camera guys from Dutch TV jumping out, “Talk to me, Russell Crowe!” And I’d say, “What the fuck is going on?” A friend of mine got footage of it. By the time we got to the hotel, there was literally, and you can see them in the frame, 34 people with cameras and microphones and stuff. It was nuts.
EI: Is this the last place you’d want to live?
RC: My attitude has actually changed quite dramatically since I gave that quote. That quote has been shoved back at me so many times. When I said that, I was a very young actor coming in here, and it was all so strange and weird and everything that I said something disparaging. But over time, the amount of people I know in this town, it’s a very comfortable place for me to come into now. And just socially for my wife as well. She’s got a lot of friends here. I give good quote. So my attitude about Los Angeles has changed. I still don’t think it’s healthy for me, personally, as an actor, to sleep in the office. And that’s the way I consider Los Angeles. It’s the office. This is where the business gets done. This is where things get set up. But for me to remain fresh with what I do and just to inform myself as a human, to be out of town, out of the country, is just better.
EI: Don’t you get harassed in Australia too?
RC: Yeah, but it’s a different level. Australians are laconic and laid back. They don’t come into your face like that. I’ll tell you a story. This guy, Yul on American Gangster, plays one of the cop characters, and I sent him some merchandise from my football team, which is the South Sydney Rabbitohs–it’s a team that’s been around 100 years. And he e-mailed me–he said, “Man, I’m wearing the hoodie with South Sydney on it and I’m walking down the streets of New York, and people keep yelling at me. What is it with your team? Is your team really hated or something?” I e-mailed back, “What are they yelling?” He said, “Up the rabbit, hos.” And, “Go you bunny.” I said, “Mate, look, that’s actually positive. Just open your arms and feel the love.” The team was formed in 1908, and the guys that made up the team were from the south of the city, where the airport is now, which was overrun with rabbits. This smart Englishman decided to release 40 rabbits for hunting purposes. Next thing you know, there are 4,000 of them out there and they are everywhere, and you can’t ride horses through the area because it’s all rabbit holes and that kind of stuff. So the government had this thing where you get paid for killing rabbits. It was a job. So a lot of the working class blokes from the area around where the football team began, if you couldn’t get a job on the docks, the next best thing was going to shoot rabbits. You’d actually get paid to be a shooter, and you’d be able to sell the meat. And rabbitoh is what they’d call out on the street when they were walking down the street with these bags with the blood dripping down. Rabbitoh! Just like newsboys used to do. That was back in 1908. It’s changed a little bit.
EI: You said Mel Gibson didn’t respect his audience because he shot The Passion in a language nobody could understand.
RC: I was really wrong about that, wasn’t I? It was a tongue-in-cheek quote I’d done on a Chicago radio station, just having a bit of fun. But the reality, with both Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto–I think it’s a fantastic thing–is that emotion overrides language. I think he achieved something really special with those two films. I think you are seeing it more and more where people aren’t afraid to use languages other than American English in a movie, which I think is great. It’s great for film and it’s great for the global village.
EI: But you do films for the audience?
RC: It starts with attempting to satisfy yourself. You try and do your best, and the extension of that is you know you are a performer and you know this is a show that will hopefully have an audience.
EI: How much are you willing to give your fans in person?
RC: I think I’ve gotten better over the years with just being okay with all that. I think any negativity I had with all that stems from a self-worth thing. It’s like, I don’t rate myself and consider myself to be worthy of that sort of thing, so when people sort of come at you, sometimes your reaction is negative or whatever. But I’m way past that sort of stuff. I’m a lot calmer with it. Sometimes it can be overwhelming.
EI: Doesn’t that go with being a star?
RC: It does in those words, but I understand more what it’s about. Funnily enough, it was a young bloke earlier this year that really put it in perspective for me. We were sitting together, I was doing something, then these people were hassling me and stuff, and this guy is like 19 years old and I was trying to focus on a football game. And people kept calling out and that sort of stuff. I was getting tense about it, and he said, “But Russ, you are the man, man.” And I kind of saw it from his eyes. From his perspective and from the perspective of other people around, it’s just totally different. They don’t see the crusty reality. They see some sort of sparkling, fill-the-screen version and that’s what they want to have contact with. I’m just a lot easier about all that sort of stuff now. It doesn’t really worry me so much.
EI: How was working with Denzel?
RC: I worked with Denzel in ’95 on a movie called Virtuosity. And on that film, about halfway through the shoot, he came into my trailer one night with two cigars and a bottle of cognac. He knocked on the door and suggested a drink. I said, “Ooh, come on in.” So we just sat there and we were chatting for about half an hour or 40 minutes. And there is something he said that I’ll always remember, and to me, doing this film is sort of a partial payback for that. He said, “I’ve never said this to any other actor, but man, I wish I was playing your role.” So when I got this script and I knew how much Denzel wanted to do this and had been following it from a distance for a couple of years, and seeing the machinations and saw the production fall apart… So when they sent me the script (and this is part of Ridley being involved) and I read it, what was great on the page about it was the character of Frank Lucas. Really there was no other heart–there was nothing going on. But that conversation with Denzel came to mind because I was reading it going, Man, I wish I was playing Frank Lucas. So to me, doing this and getting engaged with Ridley and then actually constructing the investigation of him, that was one of the most important things for me going into this, is that we have to have weight in the investigation. By the time we bring him to justice, the charges and the list of things is so big, he is done, he’s trapped, he’s gone. So he has to be on there. And he has to come back the other way and give me the information I really want as the character of Richie, which is about police. So the process of getting involved in this is really a form of repaying him a certain loyalty from 12 years ago.
EI: Have you changed your work schedule as a father now?
RC: Definitely. There are some movies I just say no to because they are being shot in a place that is not going to be comfortable for the kids. Life is completely different without them around, and I don’t like not being in the same house as them on a daily basis. Sometimes you have to put up with it. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. I still make the choices the same way I’ve always made them. I read the script, and if something about the idea grabs me, then that’s probably the thing I’m going to do. But I do have greater considerations, in terms of their schedule, of the family, just like everybody else, though. Blend it in. Make it work.
EI: What about that parenting DVD?
RC: Oh, I just gave an interview, but it was also something I was involved with conceptually to begin with, when the idea first came up. It’s just healthy. It’s a great thing. I don’t know if you understand what it is. Basically, if you are a parent-to-be in Australia now, from now on, you’ll get this instructional DVD. What it’s about, because you don’t need any instructions in the manner–obviously you know where things go! But what it’s about is informing people, taking away fears, breaking through the mythologies. And it combines a lot of things. It’s got a BBC TV show on it, which is about from conception to four years old, following the way the baby grows and all that sort of stuff and what you can expect at certain times. It’s got interviews with other parents. That’s my part of it. I think in my case, I’m talking about what you do to support your partner. But this isn’t some sort of highfalutin’ pretentious thing. This is a really cool, practical thing to give to young parents. And the government’s even gone as far as, if you live in a situation where you can’t get into your GP to get your free one, you’ve just got to go on a website or by mail and send away for one, and they’ll send it back to you postage paid. It’s a wonderful first step in engaging the government in caring for our future, which is caring for the kids. The next step would be baby nurses. This is just one step of a long list of things that you should put in place to have a healthy community.
EI: So you are now okay with lending your name to things?
RC: It’s always been two ways with charity stuff. If the only way attention is going to be brought to a negative situation, I’ve stood up lots of times in the past, whether it’s building a pool for the kids in the valley, or whatever it happens to be. The two things–charitable work and doing commercials–are miles apart. I don’t do endorsements and I’ve never been interested in that sort of thing. It just doesn’t agree with me. But I do a lot of charity stuff and, as you say, it’s where there is money needed and you can write a check to help people, and that’s fine. But I haven’t taken a backward step ever in the past either, if what’s required is for me to stand up and promote awareness or promote something, But I don’t do it as a regular thing, and I haven’t really done anything for this either. As I said, I was part of the conceptual conversations for the DVD. That’s the other thing about the DVD. It’s got a whole first aid section. You go to that first aid section of the DVD and you learn all about this baby care and stuff like that, and how they sleep and what to look for if there are problems, it’s a great resource for parents. It’s fantastic. So the idea is sparking. And the fact that I did an interview for it, I’m not standing up and banging a tub for it, but if required, later on, I would definitely be a part of the ongoing push to the federal government in Australia to actually make resources available to young parents.
EI: Did you meet Richie?
EI: Did you give Richie a present?
RC: Yeah, I played him with hair. [Laughs] That’s my present to Richie. I spent a lot of time with Richie and he gave me some wonderful things. He gave me a lot of detail–specifically, attitudinal detail–and he’s probably seen the film by now, but I haven’t talked to him. I assume I will be talking to him shortly.
EI: Are you shooting Australia?
RC: I’m not in that movie.
EI: You are shooting the al Queda movie next in Morocco?
RC: Yeah, next week. It’s really about the weeping soul that is American international politics. It’s a very short shoot for me–probably only about five weeks, perfect. Then back for the premiere in New York at the Apollo Theater on October 19th. That will be fantastic. I’m really looking forward to that.