Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Is there a way back for Russell Crowe?

News that Robin Hood – much delayed, because the production has been so untroubled — is to open the Cannes Film Festival prompts ponderings as to the current status of Russell Crowe. Has any actor done such a good job …

Wed, Apr 7, 2010, 20:15

   

News that Robin Hood – much delayed, because the production has been so untroubled — is to open the Cannes Film Festival prompts ponderings as to the current status of Russell Crowe. Has any actor done such a good job of squandering early goodwill to become a cultural pariah? When he emerged in LA Confidential (a film almost everybody now accepts was a tad overrated), he looked like the answer to a million prayers by moviegoers who like their stars big, sweaty and drunk. The days when the likes of Richard Harris or Richard Burton could booze their way onto the front pages without damaging their careers seemed impossibly distant and the sight of a star who enjoyed so much conspicuous refreshment was, well, refreshing. Then came The Insider and Gladiator. Hey, this Crowe fellow was just what we were looking for. Alas, there followed that incident at Bafta — he biffed a producer for not allowing him to read his iggle-piggle little poem — and, in the huffy aftermath, Crowe failed to win an Oscar for the useless A Beautiful Mind. (He was, of course, utterly utterly terrible in A Beautiful Mind, but it remains the kind of performance that wins awards.)

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Russell Crowe and friend.

I actually saw Crowe the day before the infamous phone-throwing incident. I was at a press conference in a hotel on Central Park South in Manhattan. Minutes ticked by and Crowe failed to show. Eventually a PR wonk, gritting his teeth furiously, told me that Russell had decided to walk, rather than take a car, from his own hotel downtown (the same establishment where the receiver was later to be dangerously flung). Yeah, fine. It’s not like we had anything better to do. Half an hour later, Crowe turned up.

This sort of behaviour has gradually lost him friends and he now looks like a star in trouble. If Robin Hood is not a hit, he could be turning into our generation’s Burt Reynolds.

Now, it is worth clarifying that I actually rather like one version of Crowe. I like the Crowe that hits people over the head with broadswords while hooting like a fogbound battleship. He was great in the fantastic Master and Commander. I do not like the Russell Crowe who tries to make me blub (and succeeds for the wrong reasons) in A Good Year. Robin Hood sounds like the right sort of part for him. Still, a lot of things can still go wrong between now and mid-May.

On the other hand, I am not looking forward to a supposed (I’ll believe it when I see it) remake of A Star is Born starring Crowe and Beyonc√©. Why, who’d believe Russell as a drunken, washed-up, has-been actor? Nobody, that’s who.

On the subject of A Star is Born, let me just clarify that the best version of that story is neither the notorious 1975¬† Streisand atrocity (Barbra, you’re 35!) nor the wonderful 1954 Judy Garland epic. It is the even more wonderful 1937 version starring Janet Gaynor and Frederic March. Hello everybody, this is Mrs Norman Screenwriter!

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