CINESCAPE: Face of the FUTURE: Actor

Cinescape MagazineRussell Crowe

by Cindy Pearlman, for Cinescape

Russell Crowe, the Australian actor who plays tobacco industry whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider, lovingly touches his pack of Benson & Hedges and strikes a match.  "After The Insider, I know the exact chemical compounds in a commercial cigarette, but I've been smoking since I was 10," he says, inhaling deeply.   "I know it's terrible, but I'm a great fan of irony."

Thanks to The Insider, Crowe's career is also-- if you'll pardon the expression-- smokin', as the handsome 35-year-old generates Oscar buzz for his transformation into the paunchy, graying Wigand.  Meanwhile, Crowe's next metamorphosis may transform him into an action hero.  He'll star as a courageous roman warrior in Ridley Scott's costume epic Gladiator.  While the virile actor enjoyed the role's physicality (Crowe spends his free time tending cattle on his ranch in the Aussie outback), he admits that playing a gladiator isn't easy.  "You're dealing with going from one 10-day fight sequence to immediately rehearsing for the next 10-day fight sequence," he says.  "In between, I'm wrestling with a tiger."

Crowe grew up on film sets in New Zealand and Australia, where his parents ran a movie catering business.  After establishing his career Down Under, Crowe played a dusty gun-slinger in The Quick and the Dead, and a serial killer in Virtuosity.  His Hollywood breakthrough, however, was his acclaimed turn as police officer Bud White in LA Confidential.  But as Crowe drew rave notices, he also earned the dubious label of being "difficult to work with."  He shakes those accusations off with a flicker of his cigarette.

"I love searching for the absolute right nuance in my work," he says.   "And I don't equate being intense with being difficult."

--Cindy Pearlman

(Article here courtesy of 4tune)