Something happened to me on Christmas. As I sat in the movie theater watching Les Miserable I thought to myself, “Ah! This is great! And I’d forgotten how much I like Russell Crowe!” And then in the ensuing weeks I started rewatching the best of Russell Crowe’s movies. I thought to myself, “Man, I really love Russell Crowe!” But when coworkers and other people started completely and utterly dissing his singing in Les Miz and bringing up his past misbehavior, well, the gloves came off.
I love Russell Crowe, dammit, and I will defend him to the death!
Okay, but why (I asked myself) do I love Russell Crowe so much? He’s absolutely not my type.
When it comes to Hollywood boyfriends I almost always go for the tall, dark, and British types. Richard Armitage? Yes. Jack Davenport? OH YES. I’ll even take Daniel Radcliffe in a pinch. As for the non-British sorts who tickle my fancy, I’ll take Shah Rukh Khan or Michael Emerson, if you please. (and yes, I do have a major thing for creepy Ben Linus, thank you very much!)
Russell Crowe is not my type. He’s ‘round about average height, he’s muscly, which isn’t really my thing, and he’s got a tough guy/bad guy reputation. But I love him. So how did this happen?
The very first movie I ever saw Russell Crowe in was the deliciously awful Virtuosity, in which he played a computer generated bad guy come to life. Was it his piercing eyes? Was it his teasing smile? Was it the full backal nudity and his shapely assets? The world may never know. There was just something about him. I followed up Virtuosity with another cinematic winner, The Quick and the Dead. Again, another camp-tastic romp filled with soulful looks and rotten dialog. I thought to myself, “Who is this awesome Australian and where can I get more of him?”
This was 1995, mind you, and these were the first American movies Russell had made. Based on those two films alone there was no way to know whether he would make it big or whether I would once again have an obscure, little-known actor to gush over and make people say “who?” I searched out and watched a bunch of his Australian films, gems like Romper Stomper (I just like to say that title), Proof (also starring Hugo Weaving, and they were both awesome), The Sum of Us (yes, Russell Crowe has played a gay character, and done it well), For the Moment (fair dinkum), and my personal favorite, Silver Stallion: King of the Wild Brumbies (which now has a shortened title for some reason).
And then came L.A. Confidential. So not my type of movie. But I dragged myself to watch it anyhow. And it was just okay, as far as I was concerned. As far as everyone else was concerned, it was awesome. Suddenly there was buzz around my stocky Australian Hollywood boyfriend. That buzz got a whole lot louder after The Insider.
Well, then it just exploded when Gladiator came out in 2000. Gladiator is still one of my top 10 favorite movies. But Russell didn’t stop there. I mean, A Beautiful Mind? Master and Commander? Cinderella Man? Need I say more? Five years after I stared at Russell Crowe’s naked backside on a big screen and thought, “Mmm, I like this man!”, the rest of the world caught on to the fact that he was awesome.
But when you are recognized and celebrated you also become a target. The whispers and rumors started to pour in. “Russell Crowe has a bad temper”. He threw a cell phone at a hotel worker. He roughed up a producer at an awards show. “Russell Crowe is difficult to work with and tries to rewrite everyone’s scripts”. He’s a bully and a thug. And then, “Russell Crowe got married and had kids and it’s really chilled him out”. Which has recently turned into, “Russell Crowe and his wife are separated”. Ah, the price of a life lived in the spotlight!
Here’s the thing about those rumors. The world treats celebrities terribly. If I told you some of the stories of things that have happened to my cousins, Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, you would be appalled. Whether you think that celebrities deserve it as the price they pay for fame or whether you think the mob treats them unfairly doesn’t matter. It is a universal truth that when a celebrity stands up for themselves, the big guns come out.
From what I have observed in the course of my nearly 20 year obsession, Russell Crowe’s biggest problem is that he’s smart and he doesn’t suffer fools lightly. I honestly believe the man is incredibly intelligent, but celebrity is so much easier to navigate when you’re dumb as a rock and shallow as a looking-glass. When you’re smart enough to see the bullshit and strong enough to fight back against it, you’re setting yourself up for a PR nightmare. I’m convinced that that’s Russell Crowe’s biggest problem. And I’m equally convinced that when he does something like sing in Les Miz, the critics go in ready to savage him for who he is, not how he sings.
It’s also why I love him. Because I feel like I know what it’s like to be aware of the crap of the world and to feel compelled to fight against it instead of taking a passive, non-confrontational stance. It gets you in trouble. But it also enables you to believe in yourself in your own darkest hours. And everyone has dark hours, even celebrities.
I have an Australian friend who has met Russell Crowe (or maybe it was her husband) and she reports that he is astoundingly nice and far more grounded than you would think. I believe it! If you look beyond the sensational headlines about the man you will see small stories about amazing philanthropic efforts he has made … along with his statement that celebrities shouldn’t necessarily boast and invite camera flashes when they help people out. There seem to be a lot of people out there quietly saying that people have no idea how much good he’s done for the people and places that are important to him.
But for me the kicker in my adoration of Russell Crowe comes from a statement he made just a few weeks ago after wrapping up a film he was shooting in New York. He’d been separated from his wife for a few months, shooting and promoting films back-to-back-to-back, and it (probably along with other things) destroyed his marriage. A reporter asked him what he was going to do next, and he answered, “I just want to go home to Australia and patch things up with my wife” (or something to that effect).
Yep, I love Russell Crowe because he’s just a normal guy with a difficult, high-profile job. He’s a jerk sometimes, he’s an angel sometimes. He’s made mistakes and he’s gotten some things very right. And I will stand by my man through thick and thin and fight anyone who tries to tell me he can’t sing. He can! And boy can he act!
P.S. I’d just like to thank all of the Russell Crowe fans who came out to read and comment on my blog today. You all are such a great bunch of positive people! It warms my heart to see so many people wishing well in the world. =D