Relishing his role as the greatest hero of the empire.

From TRIBUTE Magazine, June 2000
by Bonnie Laufer

Russell Crowe is undeniably one of the hottest actors in Hollywood. After making a huge impact on North American moviegoers in the 1997 hit L.A. Confidential, the native New Zealander was more than ready to show us what he was made of.

He has consistently amazed audiences with his on screen versatility, starring in films such as such as Mystery, Alaska — where he had to learn how to skate like a pro hockey player.

For his Oscar-nominated role in The Insider, Crowe gained 40 pounds to portray Dr. Jeffrey Wigand — a “real life” tobacco company whistle-blower.

For his latest film, Crowe is trim and fit. He is starring in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, in which he plays the great Roman General, Maximus – a man who becomes the greatest hero in the empire.

Gladiator has probably been the most demanding role you’ve had to prepare for to date. How was it getting ready for those intense fight scenes?
RC: It was challenging and demanding in terms of physicality, but not as challenging and demanding as learning how to ice skate for Mystery, Alaska. For Gladiator, I had a few skills within me already, like horse riding, but it was a long process building up to the beginning of shooting. I used to do dance routines in stage musicals when I was younger so a 200-move fight routine was pretty easy.

You’ve played your share of non-fictitious and fictitious characters — which do you prefer and why?
RC: I prefer fictitious characters because you have less responsibility and you are able to arbitrarily make decisions on behalf of that character and nobody can argue with you because it‘s fiction.

But look at the role that got you an Oscar nomination — playing tobacco industry whistle blower Jeffrey Wigand?
RC: I really did enjoy the process of playing Wigand in The Insider, but I’m not somebody who does impersonations. I would never get a job on Saturday Night Live, so that was very difficult for me and a lot of extra pressure, you know, wondering whether or not you were going to get anywhere near the person.

Over the course of your film career you have worked with some pretty impressive directors — but what was it like working with Ridley Scott?
RC: It was very interesting. I’ll tell you, this movie, with the budget that we had and the amount of people involved and the amount of extras involved, shooting in three different countries (England, Malta and Morocco), it was like doing quantum physics with Picasso.

So how did Ridley tie it all together — did he give you a lot of freedom as an actor?
RC: There was a lot of freedom in general because we only started with 35 pages. I’m just going to try and stop short of saying we kind of made it up as we went along, but in reality there was great collaboration. All of us, from myself to Ridley Scott to the executives on the picture, wanted to make a film that had some resonance because what you do in life echoes an eternity.
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