Russell Ira Crowe (born 7 April 1964) is an actor, film producer and musician. Although a New Zealand citizen, he has lived most of his life in Australia. He came to international attention for his role as the Roman General Maximus Decimus Meridius in the 2000 historical epic film Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott, for which Crowe won an Academy Award for Best Actor, a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actor, an Empire Award for Best Actor and a London Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actor and 10 further nominations for best actor.
Crowe appeared as the tobacco firm whistle blower Jeffrey Wigand in the 1999 film The Insider, for which he received five awards as best actor and seven nominations in the same category. In 2001, Crowe’s portrayal of mathematician and Nobel Prize winner John F. Nash in the biopic A Beautiful Mind brought him numerous awards, including a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama and a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role.
Crowe’s other films include Romper Stomper (1992), L.A. Confidential (1997), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003), Cinderella Man (2005), American Gangster (2007), State of Play (2009), Robin Hood (2010), Les Misrables (2012), Man of Steel (2013) and Noah (2014). Crowe’s work has earned him several accolades during his career and including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, three consecutive Academy Award nominations (19992001), one Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, one BAFTA, and an Academy Award. Crowe is also the co-owner of the South Sydney Rabbitohs, an Australian National Rugby League team.
Crowe was born on 7 April 1964 in the Wellington suburb of Strathmore Park, the son of Jocelyn Yvonne (ne Wemyss) and John Alexander Crowe, both of whom were film set caterers; his father also managed a hotel. Crowe’s maternal grandfather, Stan Wemyss, was a cinematographer who was named an MBE for filming footage of World War II. Crowe’s paternal grandfather, John Doubleday Crowe, was from Wrexham, Wales, while one of Crowe’s maternal great-great-grandmothers was Mori. Crowe also has English, German, Irish, Italian, Norwegian, Scottish, Swedish, and Welsh ancestry. He is a cousin of former New Zealand cricket captains Martin Crowe and Jeff Crowe, and nephew of cricketer Dave Crowe. Russell has built a cricket field named for his uncle.
When Crowe was four years old, his family moved to Sydney, Australia, where his parents pursued a career in set catering. The producer of the Australian TV series Spyforce was his mother’s godfather, and Crowe (at age five or six) was hired for a line of dialogue in one episode, opposite series star Jack Thompson (in 1994 Thompson played the father of Crowe’s character in The Sum of Us). Crowe also appeared briefly in the serial The Young Doctors.
Crowe was educated at Vaucluse Public School but later moved to Sydney Boys High School. When he was 14, his family moved back to New Zealand where, along with his brother Terry, he attended Auckland Grammar School with cousins Martin Crowe and Jeff Crowe. He then continued his secondary education at Mount Roskill Grammar School, which he left at the age 16 to pursue his ambition of becoming an actor.
Crowe began his performing career as a musician in the early 1980s, under guidance from his good friend Tom Sharplin, when he performed under the stage name “Russ Le Roq”. He released several New Zealand singles including “I Just Want To Be Like Marlon Brando“, “Pier 13”, “Shattered Glass”, none of which charted. He managed an Auckland music venue called “The Venue” in 1984. When he was 18, he was featured in A Very Special Person…, a promotional video for the theology/ministry course at Avondale College, a Seventh-day Adventist tertiary education provider in New South Wales.
Crowe returned to Australia at age 21, intending to apply to the National Institute of Dramatic Art. “I was working in a theatre show, and talked to a guy who was then the head of technical support at NIDA”, Crowe has recalled. “I asked him what he thought about me spending three years at NIDA. He told me it’d be a waste of time. He said, ‘You already do the things you go there to learn, and you’ve been doing it for most of your life, so there’s nothing to teach you but bad habits.'” From 1986 to 1988, he was given his first professional role by director Daniel Abineri, in a New Zealand production of The Rocky Horror Show. He played the role of Eddie/Dr Scott. He repeated this performance in a further Australian production of the show, which also toured New Zealand. In 1987, Crowe spent six months busking when he could not find other work. In the 1988 Australian production of Blood Brothers, Crowe played the role of Mickey. He was also cast again by Daniel Abineri in the role of Johnny, in the stage musical Bad Boy Johnny and the Prophets of Doom in 1989.
After appearing in the TV series Neighbours and Living with the Law, Crowe was cast by Faith Martin in his first film, The Crossing (1990), a small-town love triangle directed by George Ogilvie. Before production started, a film-student protg of Ogilvie, Steve Wallace, hired Crowe for the film Blood Oath (1990) (aka Prisoners of the Sun), which was released a month earlier than The Crossing, although actually filmed later. In 1992, Crowe starred in the first episode of the second series of Police Rescue. Also in 1992, Crowe starred in Romper Stomper, an Australian film which followed the exploits and downfall of a racist skinhead group in blue-collar suburban Melbourne, directed by Geoffrey Wright. For the role, Crowe won an Australian Film Institute (AFI) award for Best Actor, following up from his Best Supporting Actor award for Proof in 1991. In 2015 it was reported that Crowe had applied for Australian citizenship in 2006 and again in 2013 but was rejected because he failed to fulfill the residency requirements. However, Australia’s Immigration Department said it had no record of any such application by Crowe.
After initial success in Australia, Crowe first starred in a Canadian production in 1993, For the Moment, before concentrating on American films. He co-starred with Denzel Washington in Virtuosity (the duo later appearing together in American Gangster) and with Sharon Stone in The Quick and the Dead in 1995. He went on to become a three-time Oscar nominee, winning the Academy Award as Best Actor in 2000 for Gladiator. Crowe was awarded the (Australian) Centenary Medal in 2001 for “service to Australian society and Australian film production.”
Crowe received three consecutive best actor Oscar nominations, for The Insider, Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind. Crowe won the best actor award for A Beautiful Mind at the 2002 BAFTA award ceremony, as well as the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for the same performance. Although nominated for an Academy Award, he lost to Denzel Washington.
All three films were also nominated for best picture, and both Gladiator and A Beautiful Mind won the award. Within the six-year stretch from 1997 to 2003, he also starred in two other best picture nominees, L.A. Confidential and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World. In 2005, he re-teamed with A Beautiful Mind director Ron Howard for Cinderella Man. In 2006, he re-teamed with Gladiator director Ridley Scott for A Good Year, the first of two consecutive collaborations (the second being American Gangster co-starring again with Denzel Washington, released in late 2007). While the light romantic comedy of A Good Year was not greatly received, Crowe seemed pleased with the film, telling STV in an interview that he thought it would be enjoyed by fans of his other films.
In recent years, Crowe’s box office standing has declined. The Hollywood stock market (HSX) share Russell Crowe (RCROW), issued in 1998, however maintains constant accretion. Crowe appeared in Robin Hood, a film based on the Robin Hood legend, directed by Ridley Scott and released on 14 May 2010. Crowe starred in the 2010 Paul Haggis film The Next Three Days, an adaptation of the 2008 French film Pour Elle.
After a year off acting, Crowe played Jackknife in The Man with the Iron Fists, opposite RZA. He took on the role of Inspector Javert in the musical film of Les Misrables (2012), and portrayed Superman’s biological father, Jor-El, in the Christopher Nolan produced Superman film, Man of Steel, released in the summer of 2013. In 2014, he played a gangster in the film adaptation of Mark Helprin’s 1983 novel Winter’s Tale, and the title role in the Darren Arnofsky film Noah. In June 2013, Crowe signed to make his directional debut with an historical drama film The Water Diviner, which he also starred in. The film focused on the time of 1919 and was produced by Troy Lum, Andrew Mason and Keith Rodger. Crowe is also starring in The Mummy (2017).
In the 1980s, Crowe, going under the name of “Russ le Roq”, recorded a song titled “I Want To Be Like Marlon Brando“.
In the 1980s, Crowe and friend Billy Dean Cochran formed a band, “Roman Antix”, which later evolved into the Australian rock band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts (abbreviated to TOFOG). Crowe performed lead vocals and guitar for the band, which formed in 1992. The band released The Photograph Kills EP in 1995, as well as three full-length records, Gaslight (1998), Bastard Life or Clarity (2001) and Other Ways of Speaking (2003). In 2000, TOFOG performed shows in London, Los Angeles and the now famous run of shows at Stubbs in Austin, Texas which became a live DVD that was released in 2001, called Texas. In 2001, the band came to the US for major press, radio and TV appearances for the Bastard Life or Clarity release and returned to Stubbs in Austin, Texas to kick off a sold out US tour with dates in Austin, Boulder, Chicago, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, New York City and the last show at the famous Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey.
In early 2005, 30 Odd Foot of Grunts as a group had “dissolved/evolved” with Crowe feeling his future music would take a new direction. He began a collaboration with Alan Doyle of the Canadian band Great Big Sea, and with it a new band emerged: The Ordinary Fear of God which also involved some members of the previous TOFOG line-up. A new single, Raewyn, was released in April 2005 and an album entitled My Hand, My Heart which was released and is available for download on iTunes. The album includes a tribute song to actor Richard Harris, who became Crowe’s friend during the making of Gladiator.
Russell Crowe & The Ordinary Fear of God set out to break the new band in by performing a successful sold out series of dates of Australia in 2005, and then in 2006, returned to the US to promote their new release My Hand, My Heart with another sold-out US Tour and major press, radio and television appearances. In March 2010, Russell Crowe & The Ordinary Fear of God’s version of the John Williamson song “Winter Green” was included on a new compilation album The Absolute Best of John Williamson: 40 Years True Blue, commemorating the singer-songwriter’s milestone of 40 years in the Australian music industry. As of May 2011, there are plans to release a new Russell Crowe & The Ordinary Fear of God recording (co-written with Alan Doyle) and for a US tour which would be the first live dates in the US since 2006.
On 2 August 2011, the third collaboration between Crowe and Doyle was released on iTunes as The Crowe/Doyle Songbook Vol III, featuring nine original songs followed by their acoustic demo counterparts (for a total of 18 tracks). Danielle Spencer does guest vocals on most tracks. The release coincided with a pair of live performances at the LSPU Hall in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The digital album was released as download versions only on Amazon.com, iTunes, spotify. The album has since charted at No. 72 on the Canadian Albums Chart. On 26 September 2011, Crowe appeared on-stage at Rogers Arena in Vancouver in the middle of Keith Urban’s concert. He sang a cover of Folsom Prison Blues, before joining the rest of the band in a rendition of “The Joker“. On 18 August 2012, Crowe appeared along with Doyle at the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavk, Iceland as part of the city’s Menningarntt program. They also appeared at downtown bars, Gaukurinn and Kex.
During location filming of Cinderella Man, Crowe made a donation to a Jewish elementary school whose library had been damaged as a result of arson. A note with an anti-Semitic message had been left at the scene. Crowe called school officials to express his concern and wanted his message relayed to the students. The school’s building fund received donations from throughout Canada and the amount of Crowe’s donation was not disclosed.
On another occasion, Crowe donated $200,000 to a struggling primary school near his home in rural Australia. The money went towards an $800,000 project to construct a swimming pool at the school. Crowe’s sympathies were sparked when a pupil drowned at the nearby Coffs Harbour beach in 2001, and he believes the pool will help students become better swimmers and improve their knowledge of water safety. At the opening ceremony he dove into the pool fully clothed as soon as the venue was declared open. Nana Glen principal Laurie Renshall says, “The many things he does up here, people just don’t know about. We’ve been trying to get a pool for 10 years.”
Crowe began an on-again, off-again relationship with Australian singer Danielle Spencer in 1989, when they co-starred in the 1990 film The Crossing. In 2000, Crowe was romantically involved with his co-star Meg Ryan while on the set of their film Proof of Life. Crowe and Spencer reconciled in 2001, and married in April 2003, at Crowe’s cattle property in Nana Glen, New South Wales. They have two sons: Charles Spencer Crowe (born 21 December 2003) and Tennyson Spencer Crowe (born 7 July 2006). In October 2012, it was reported that Crowe and Spencer had separated.
Crowe resides in Australia. In 2011, Crowe and his family moved to a house in Sydney’s Rose Bay. Crowe also owns a house in the North Queensland city of Townsville, purchased in May 2008. He is rather frugal in his spending and is known to drive an old Jeep.
In the beginning of 2009, despite not having Australian citizenship, Crowe appeared in a series of special edition postage stamps called “Legends of the Screen”, featuring Australian actors. He, Geoffrey Rush, Cate Blanchett and Nicole Kidman each appear twice in the series, once as themselves and once as their Academy Award-winning character.
Crowe stated in November 2007 that he would like to be baptised as a Christian and felt that he had put it off for too long. “I do believe there are more important things than what is in the mind of a man”, he said. “There is something much bigger that drives us all. I’m willing to take that leap of faith.”
In June 2010, Crowe, who had started smoking when he was only 10, announced he had quit for the sake of his two sons. In November 2010, Crowe told David Letterman that he had been smoking more than 60 cigarettes a day for 36 years of his life, and that he had fallen off the wagon the previous night and smoked heavily.
On 9 March 2005, Crowe revealed to GQ magazine that Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents had approached him prior to the 73rd Academy Awards in March 2001, and told him that the terrorist group al-Qaeda wanted to kidnap him. Crowe told the magazine that it was the first time he had ever heard of al-Qaeda and was quoted as saying: “You get this late-night call from the FBI when you arrive in Los Angeles, and they’re, like, absolutely full-on. ‘We’ve got to talk to you now before you do anything. We have to have a discussion with you, Mr. Crowe.'” Crowe recalled that: “It was something to do with some recording picked up by a French policewoman, I think, in either Libya or Algiers…it was about taking iconographic Americans out of the picture as a sort of cultural destabilisation plan.”
Altercations and controversies
Between 1999 and 2005, Crowe was involved in four altercations which gave him a reputation for having a bad temper.
In 1999, Crowe was involved in a scuffle at the Plantation Hotel in Coffs Harbour, Australia, which was caught on security video. Two men were acquitted of using the video in an attempt to blackmail Crowe.
Four years later, when part of Crowe’s appearance at the 2002 BAFTA awards was cut out to fit into the BBC‘s tape-delayed broadcast, Crowe used strong language during an argument with producer Malcolm Gerrie. The part cut was a poem in tribute to actor Richard Harris, and it was cut for copyright reasons. Crowe later apologised, saying “What I said to him may have been a little bit more passionate than now, in the cold light of day, I would have liked it to have been.”
Later that year, Crowe was alleged to have been involved in a brawl with businessman and fellow New Zealander Eric Watson inside the London branch of Zuma, a fashionable Japanese restaurant chain. The fight was broken up by British actor Ross Kemp.
In June 2005, Crowe was arrested and charged with Second-Degree Assault by New York City police after he threw a telephone at the concierge of the Mercer Hotel who refused to help him place a call when the system did not work from his room; he was charged with Fourth-Degree Criminal Possession of a Weapon (the telephone). The concierge was treated for a facial laceration. After his arrest, Crowe underwent a perp walk, a procedure customary in New York City, exposing the handcuffed suspect to the news media to take pictures. This procedure was under discussion as potentially violating Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Crowe later described the incident as “possibly the most shameful situation that I’ve ever gotten myself in…” . Crowe pleaded guilty and was conditionally discharged. Before the trial, he settled a lawsuit filed by the concierge, Nestor Estrada. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but amounts in the six-figure range have been reported.
The telephone incident had a generally negative impact on Crowe’s public image, an example of negative public relations in the mass media, although Crowe had made a point of befriending Australian journalists in an effort to influence his image. A professional public image as “The Gladiator” had to compete alongside one as “the telephone throwing actor”. For example, the South Park episode, “The New Terrance and Phillip Movie Trailer” revolves around a lampooning of his aggressive tendencies. Crowe commented on the ongoing media perpetuation in November 2010, five years into the process, during an interview with American television talk show host and journalist Charlie Rose: “it affected me psychologically” (…) “it indelibly changed me.”
Crowe publicly endorsed Barack Obama, whom he called “the light and the future”, in the United States presidential election, 2012, and urged Americans to vote for him. He also publicly endorsed Julia Gillard, whom he called “Leader through tough times”, in the Australian Labor Party leadership spill, June 2013, although he is unable to vote in Australia as he is not an Australian citizen. Gillard lost the Labor leadership to Kevin Rudd, who subsequently lost the Australian federal election, 2013.
Crowe says he follows New Zealand’s rugby union team, the All Blacks, and Australia in any other sport. Two of his cousins, Martin Crowe and Jeff Crowe, captained the Black Caps New Zealand international cricket team.
Crowe has been a supporter of the rugby league football team the South Sydney Rabbitohs since childhood. Since his rise to fame as an actor, he has continued appearing at home games, and supported the financially troubled club. Following the Super League war of the 1990s Crowe made an attempt to use his Hollywood connections to convince Ted Turner, rival of Super League’s Rupert Murdoch, to save the Rabbitohs before they were forced from the National Rugby League competition for two years. In 1999 Crowe paid $42,000 at auction for the brass bell used to open the inaugural rugby league match in Australia in 1908 at a fund-raiser to assist Souths’ legal battle for re-inclusion in the League. In 2005, he made the Rabbitohs the first club team in Australia to be sponsored by a film, when he negotiated a deal to advertise his film Cinderella Man on their jerseys. On 19 March 2006, the voting members of the South Sydney club voted (in a 75.8% majority) to allow Crowe and businessman Peter Holmes Court to purchase 75% of the organisation, leaving 25% ownership with the members. It cost them A$3 million, and they received four of eight seats on the board of directors. A six-part television miniseries entitled South Side Story depicting the takeover aired in Australia in 2007. On 5 November 2006, Crowe appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to announce that Firepower International was sponsoring the South Sydney Rabbitohs for $3 million over three years. During a Tonight Show with Jay Leno appearance, Crowe showed viewers a Rabbitoh playing jersey with Firepower’s name emblazoned on it.
Crowe helped to organise a rugby league game that took place at the University of North Florida, in Jacksonville, Florida, between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the European Super League champions Leeds Rhinos on 26 January 2008 (Australia Day). Crowe told ITV Local Yorkshire the game was not a marketing exercise. Crowe wrote a letter of apology to a Sydney newspaper following the sacking of South Sydney’s coach Jason Taylor and one of their players David Fa’alogo after a drunken altercation between the two at the end of the 2009 NRL season. Also in 2009 Crowe persuaded young England international forward Sam Burgess to sign with the Rabbitohs over other clubs that were competing for his signature, after inviting Burgess and his mother to the set of Robin Hood, which he was filming in Britain at the time.
Crowe’s influence helped to persuade noted player Greg Inglis to renege on his deal to join the Brisbane Broncos and sign for the Rabbitohs for 2011. In 2010, the NRL was investigating Crowe’s business relationships with a number of media and entertainment companies including Channel Nine, Channel Seven, ANZ Stadium, and V8 Supercars in relation to the South Sydney Rabbitohs’ salary cap.
In 2011, Souths also announced a corporate partnership with the bookmaking conglomerate Luxbet. Previously, Crowe had been prominent in trying to prevent gambling being associated with the Rabbitohs. In May 2011, Crowe helped arrange to have Fox broadcast the 2011 State of Origin series live for the first time in the United States, in addition to the NRL Grand Final. In November 2012 the South Sydney Rabbitohs confirmed that Russell Crowe was selling his 37.5% stake in the club. At the Rabbitohs Annual General Meeting on 3 March 2013, Chairman Nick Pappas claimed Crowe “would not be selling his shareholding in the short-to-medium term and at this stage has no intention of selling at all”.
Crowe was a guest presenter at the 2013 Dally M Awards and presented the prestigious Dally M Medal to winner Cooper Cronk. Russell was present at the 2014 NRL Grand Final when the Rabbitohs won the NRL premiership for the first time in 43 years.
Other sporting interests
Crowe watches and plays cricket, and captained the ‘Australian’ Team containing Steve Waugh against an English side in the ‘Hollywood Ashes’ Cricket Match. On 17 July 2009 Crowe took to the commentary box for the British sports channel, Sky Sports, as the ‘third man’ during the second Test of the 2009 Ashes series, between England and Australia. He is friends with Lloyd Carr, the former coach of the University of Michigan Wolverines American football team, and Carr used Crowe’s movie Cinderella Man to motivate his 2006 team following a 75 season the previous year. Upon hearing of this, Crowe called Carr and invited him to Australia to address his Rugby league team, the South Sydney Rabbitohs, which Carr did the following summer. In September 2007, after Carr came under fire following the Wolverines’ 02 start, Crowe travelled to Ann Arbor, Michigan for the Wolverines’ 15 September game against Notre Dame to show his support for Carr. He addressed the team before the game and watched from the sidelines as the Wolverines defeated the Irish 380. Crowe is also a fan of the National Football League. On 22 October 2007, Crowe appeared in the booth of a Monday night game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Filmography and awards
Crowe has appeared in 43 films and three television series since his career began in 1985. He won the Academy Award for Best Actor for Gladiator (2000) and was nominated twice more for The Insider (1999) and A Beautiful Mind (2001), making him the ninth actor to receive three consecutive Academy Award nominations. He has also received five Golden Globe Award nominations (winning one), three BAFTA Award nominations (winning one), and three Screen Actors Guild Award nominations (winning one).