Russell Crowe was preparing on set to shoot Ridley Scott’s 2010 epic “Robin Hood” when word reached him that his co-star, stage and screen legend William Hurt, was freaking out.
Crowe rushed to the side of his fellow Oscar winner, who had been hired to play William Marshal, first earl of Pembroke, but was in emotional turmoil over his inability to get into character.
“I realized he simply just wanted to know what we were doing. So I started to talk to him about his character and he didn’t realize his character was an actual historical figure of great importance,” Crowe recalled.
“So I just started to go out to my trailer and bring him pages and pages of research, and things to think about and talk about. We had a 25- to 30-minute conversation in a car park.”
The chat, said Crowe, was transformative: Hurt found his mojo and cast aside his worries to give one of his best performances and become an inspiration to the cast.
Crowe, a veteran of more than 40 movies, recounted this episode not to show off, but to demonstrate that teamwork is one of the most important aspects of the job.
Perhaps he was showing off a little.
The star was warming up toward the end of a roundtable interview to promote comedy-thriller “The Nice Guys,” and appeared to be enjoying himself.
Crowe won a best actor Oscar in 2000 for “Gladiator” and followed it with a BAFTA and Golden Globe for his stunning portrayal of schizophrenic mathematician John Nash in “A Beautiful Mind.”
Still one of the most recognizable actors in the world, the famously short-tempered Hollywood A-lister cuts an intimidating figure, despite being polite and jovial.
Even at his fighting weight, the lifelong smoker is a stocky six-footer (1.8 meters) but now, aged 52, he doesn’t look like he’s paused at the salads and soups section of the menu for a good number of years.
Crowe has generated his fair share of negative headlines through a number of public altercations, and is famously sensitive about criticism.
He enthused about how much the cast and crew of his latest movie care about their craft but then, unprompted, seamlessly turned what ought to have been a positive point into an unquotably sweary swipe at his critics.
Catherine Shoard, a film writer from the London-based Guardian newspaper, recalled being upbraided for her lukewarm review of “Les Miserables” by an irate Crowe, who tweeted that she was “an illiterate plonker.”
“It made me like him more: here is a man of passion and engagement, unafraid to speak out,” she wrote, despite describing him as having “the heart of a soppy 11-year-old girl inside the body of a 50-year-old bruiser.”
Born in New Zealand, Crowe has lived in his beloved Australia since he was a small child and owns a $10 million house in Sydney as well as a 790-acre (320-hectare) country estate.
From modest beginnings in a Wellington suburb, he has done rather well and, unlike many of his contemporaries, has never really suffered a fallow period in a career studded with blockbusters.
There was little need for the father of two to risk tying himself to “The Nice Guys,” a smart but obscure private eye story — part noir thriller, part laugh-a-minute farce — set in the smog of 1970s Los Angeles.
Crowe revealed he had planned to turn down the role of battle-scarred enforcer Jackson Healy by getting director Shane Black drunk and letting him down gently.
But he quickly changed his mind after discovering the filmmaker doesn’t drink — and that he had persuaded Ryan Gosling to join the movie, which gets its US release through Warner Bros. on May 20.
The chemistry between the pair elevates “The Nice Guys” from a clever piece of counter programming for moviegoers who aren’t interested in superheroes into an early contender for Oscars.
“Ryan is a cineaste, he has a knowledge of the history of film,” Crowe said.
“So if you’re seeing things in his performance that feel like it stretches between Harold Lloyd and Gene Wilder… he knows where he’s going with that stuff.”
“The Nice Guys” sees Crowe sharing his first scenes with Kim Basinger since they co-starred in another noir thriller 19 years ago.
“The relationship we had on ‘LA Confidential’ was so intimate, the scenes we had to do were so intimate. We connected so deeply and I loved it,” Crowe said.
But he added that the pair have not spoken for more than a decade and that their relationship on “The Nice Guys” was “not the same thing — it’s not like we were connected the same way we were in that film.”