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Posted at 11:10 AM ET, 04/27/2010

Russell Crowe: 'I will kill you with my bare hands' (and other tales from the 'Gladiator' set)

By Liz Kelly

Supposed problem child Russell Crowe in 2000's 'Gladiator.' (AP)

Thanks to a new book we are reminded that not only is Russell Crowe a big-time movie star who has another splashy Ridley Scott-directed epic -- "Robin Hood" -- opening in two weeks, but that the actor is also quite possibly a lunatic.

Or was. Remember, before he settled down into fatherhood and domestic bliss with fellow Aussie Danielle Spencer, Crowe is the guy who once assaulted a New York hotel employee with a phone, toured boozy clubs with his band and did much to underscore the fact that he was, in fact, a raiser of hell. To be fair, Crowe later described the phone incident as "possibly the most shameful situation that I've ever gotten myself in... and I've done some pretty dumb things in my life." Still, the man built a rep that continues to haunt him.

The new book "The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company called DreamWorks" offers some supposed "Gladiator"-era Crowe hijinx, adding nicely to his mythology.

A few excerpts, via Gawker, follow.

First, a phone call that apparently took place between Crowe and "Gladiator" producer Branko Lustig:

"You [expletive]. I will kill you with my bare hands."
"Hello?" Branko Lustig said, confused and barely awake; it was, after all, 3 a.m. in England.
"You [expletive]," the speaker repeated.
"Who's on the phone? Who is this?" Lustig demanded.
When Russell Crowe identified himself, the genuinely terrified Lustig, one of the producers of the about-to-be-filmed Gladiator, hung up and called Steven Spielberg in Los Angeles.
"Steven," he said. "I'm leaving. Russell wants to kill me. I'm leaving."
Having survived a concentration camp, Lustig was not taking any chances.
Crowe, not yet Russell Crowe, but still just another verkakte Australian coming off a sleeper (L.A. Confidential), was sour because he believed DreamWorks was low-balling his assistants on their per diems. Rather than raise this grievance at a mundane daylight hour, Crowe opted for a more dramatic statement, a tactic not unknown in these parts. The actor's recent behavior had been erratic, just like everything else on the project.

Next, author Nicole LaPorte recounts Crowe's mood on the film's Moroccan set:

...after filming in England, the shoot moved to Ouarzazate, Morocco -- a town near the Sahara Desert, where Hollywood has traditionally gone for its sword and sandal needs (Lawrence of Arabia was filmed in the area). Crowe's mood did not improve. Twice, he had walked off the set. Even when he was supposedly having "fun," Crowe was a puffy pain. After challenging members of the crew to a foot race, and losing, he would mutter for days, "I would have won, but I can't run in the sand in sandals."

Finally, this snippet in which Crowe apparently balked at his lines in the movie's climactic "And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next" scene. First, he apparently insisted on shooting a variation of his own creation before grudgingly agreeing to try it as scripted:

After doing the take, Crowe still looked dissatisfied. "Let me see the other script again," he said to Scott, referring to the loathed revision. After studying the page stonily, he shrugged. "Well, we might as well try it."
And so, the scene was reshot. Everyone agreed it was brilliant. Everyone, that is, but Crowe. "Russell, what's the problem?" Scott asked, finally showing a hint of exasperation. "It worked."
"It was s***," Crowe repeated, "but I'm the greatest actor in the world and I can make even s*** sound good." And with that he marched off.

And so he did.

LaPorte's book goes on sale May 4.

By Liz Kelly  | April 27, 2010; 11:10 AM ET
Categories:  Books, Celebrities  | Tags:  Gladiator, Robin Hood, Russell Crowe  
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Why is this being rehashed? Was he a PIA on the Robinhood set too? Is he still a wackadoodle?

Enjoyed seeing fellow wackadoodle Joquain Phoenix in the clip with him. (I'm sure I spelled that wrong but don't really care).

Posted by: hodie2 | April 27, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

Poor Russell. He was trying so hard on Oprah last week to be a nice, normal guy. He even gave her a sword and her own longbow. It does seem like he's learned from his earlier days to calm down and treat people better--maybe the phone-beatdown was an eye-opener for him. I do wish he'd address the crazy a bit more directly though, admitting that he used to approach situations like this, but learned to change, instead of pretending that these are aberrations in a normally sunny disposition.

Posted by: auntiemare | April 27, 2010 11:27 AM | Report abuse

verkakte? Never knew it was spelled that way.

Posted by: Laura118 | April 27, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Strangely, I find myself agreeing with Russell Crowe. He really is a great actor. A bit over the average hubris limit, but with talent miles above most of the actors out there. So what's a little phone throwing and drunken phone calls?

And -- because I think I post this here everytime I see her name -- I can't read "Danielle Spencer" without thinking, "Oooh, Raj! You're gonna GET IT!"

Posted by: td_in_baltimore | April 27, 2010 12:52 PM | Report abuse

It's been a while since I saw it, but Russell Crowe's interview on Inside the Actor's Studio actually did address the crazy. I have to admit that I became a fan of his after that.

Posted by: ras4q | April 27, 2010 12:59 PM | Report abuse

So is the consensus that RC is still an asshat, or not? Not that it matters. I'll watch him anyway.

Posted by: reddragon1 | April 27, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like my kind of guy.....

Posted by: jezebel3 | April 27, 2010 1:26 PM | Report abuse

*yawn* A good actor is egotistical and a wee bit crazy? Really?

You mean someone who actively goes into a profession where they play someone else, and want other people to pay attention to them is like that?

I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked and rocked to my very core.

Okay, where'd my Coke Zero go.....

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | April 27, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

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