May 1

Gladiator premiere ~ Los Angeles ~ 2000

     

Russell with Connie Neilsen and Spencer Treat Clark




     

with Joaquin Phoenix


with Joaquin, Connie, Djimon Hounsou and Ralf Moeller




Source: Entertainment Weekly

May 1, 2000

Cover Story: GLADIATOR

Starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Richard Harris, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Derek Jacobi, Djimon Hounsou
Directed by Ridley Scott

What's the big deal? Finally, the movie that will make Russell Crowe a marquee star. For Crowe, packing on nearly 40 pounds to play The Insider's Big Tobacco whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand was a piece of cake. (Actually, several pieces of cake.) It was shedding the flab that was next to impossible. Not that Crowe (who scored a Best Actor Oscar nomination for The Insider) minded. It's just that the actor was on a pretty tight deadline not only to drop the pounds, but also to chisel himself into Maximus - the baddest badass in ancient Rome. "After five weeks of working out I'd only dropped five pounds,'' says Crowe. ''For some people dropping 38 pounds is nothing, but my cholesterol was ridiculously high and I had trouble getting out of cars, I was so fat.''

Vying to be the first blockbuster of the summer, director Scott's $100 million Roman action epic tells the swashbuckling story of Crowe's Maximus - a brave and loyal military general under Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Harris). But when the emperor reveals his plans for Maximus to succeed him after his death, Aurelius' jealous son Commodus (Phoenix) betrays Maximus and has him sent into exile as a slave. In shackles and with his family life destroyed, Maximus is trained as a gladiator under the tutelage of Proximo (Reed, who died of apparent heart failure toward the tail end of filming). When Maximus is sent to Rome to fight in the Colosseum, he begins to plot his vengeance and gain his freedom. While that simple general-to-slave-to-gladiator three-act story arc would be more than enough to sustain most summer fare, Scott and screenwriter David Franzoni had loftier goals, piling on a few twisty subplots involving Maximus' enslaved brother-in-arms (Hounsou), Maximus' past relationship with the emperor's daughter (Nielsen), and her plan to restore Rome to democratic rule with the help of a civic-minded senator (Jacobi).

While Crowe's character is fictional, others are drawn from the history books. ''It's pretty smart,'' boasts Scott. ''Thankfully, a lot of the story was there in Roman history, so we didn't have to make too much up.'' Still, the director says Gladiator's real surprise is its lean-and-mean leading man, who he predicts will rocket from a bristling and brooding character actor into one of Hollywood's heavyweight stars. ''Trust me, if I had to hire Russell after this movie comes out,'' says Scott, ''I wouldn't be able to afford him.''




Source: Newsweek

May 1, 2000

The Battle For Summer: Actor Russell Crowe leads the charge for the box office in the mesmerizing Roman epic "Gladiator" and flashes the bullish, powerful charm that has made him unconquerable.

By David Ansen

To play the role of Maximus, a Roman general turned gladiator in Ridley Scott's $103 million epic "Gladiator," Russell Crowe first had to lose the 38 pounds he'd put on to play tobacco- industry whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand in "The Insider." "I didn't want to create a contemporary gym body," Crowe says, his deep, rich, echo-chamber Aussie voice enriched by Marlboros. "I wanted him to have a bit of the beast about him."

There are those who would say there is always a bit of the beast inside this complex, 36-year-old, New Zealand-born actor. Certainly you can see it in many of the characters he has played: the angry mule inside Wigand's pale, portly frame; the raging bull inside cop Bud White in "L.A. Confidential"; the wild animal that was the racist skinhead in the 1992 "Romper Stomper." These are performances that emerge from some deep, primal place. Yet this is the same man who convincingly played a sweet dishwasher in "Proof" and a sensitive gay son in "The Sum of Us." In "Gladiator," he radiates an un-self-conscious, dyed-in-the wool masculinity that seems to belong to another era. Is there an American actor Crowe's age who would look at home in a sword-and-sandal epic? Johnny Depp? John Cusack? Sean Penn? Don't think so.

For a director, working with Crowe can be like lion-taming. He is a man who reflexively snarls at strangers. "It was challenge, challenge, challenge," recalls "L.A. Confidential" director Curtis Hanson. "He literally challenged every word of every line. He's looking to see if you'll stand up to him, if he can shake you. But once I had his trust, I had it completely. He would have walked across the Hollywood Freeway if I'd asked him."

I get a taste of the Crowe Treatment in Los Angeles two days after the Oscars. The first thing he does is growl: "Thanks for ruining my f---ing life, mate." He has stayed on an extra day to talk to me, postponing his flight to Ecuador, where he's shooting the kidnap drama "Proof of Life" with Meg Ryan, and he lets me know what hassles this has created. But the flash of teeth is a bluff; having marked his territory, he turns on the gruff Down Under charm.

On "Gladiator," one of his fights with director Scott was about the accent he would use as Maximus, the fictional general who vows revenge on Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), the historical, very depraved Roman emperor who has slain Maximus's wife and child, and thinks he's killed his rival for the throne, Maximus himself. The hero is Spanish, so Crowe wanted to play him sounding like "Antonio Banderas with better elocution." As with most of his arguments, he lost, adapting instead a voice he calls "Royal Shakespeare Company two pints after lunch."

Whatever it is, the audience has no trouble believing that they're watching the most accomplished gladiator in the Roman empire. And Ridley Scott, in his best movie since "Thelma and Louise," takes a genre that had been left for dead almost 35 years ago and breathes beautiful and brutal new life into it. Ranging from the German forests, where we first see Maximus leading the army of Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) into battle; to Morocco, where the general, stripped of his status and sold into slavery, is trained to be a gladiator; to the bloody Colosseum of Rome, the grave, elegant "Gladiator" is a spectacular undertaking. Maximus's story is pure fiction, but the teeming cutthroat world Scott creates feels right. Phoenix's daring performance as the creepy, sadistic, patricidal son of Marcus Aurelius--who harbors incestuous desires for his regal sister (Connie Nielsen)--reveals a range one had never expected.

Both spacious and intimate, "Gladiator" delivers dazzling production designs by Arthur Max, savage fight scenes that thrill and sicken (turning us into that bloodthirsty Roman crowd) and a genuine larger-than-life hero. Crowe is the rock around which this huge, stylish production is built; without his blunt conviction it could all have rung very false.

After he finishes shooting in Ecuador, the unmarried, tireless Crowe (22 films since 1990) is going to make a movie directed by Jodie Foster. Called "Flora Plum," it is set in a Depression-era circus. "I play a beast in a freak show," Crowe explains, taking a deep drag on his cigarette. "Which I think is rather appropriate."




Source: Good Morning America

May 1, 2000

Interview with Diane Sawyer

Diane Sawyer begins the interview with a fight scene from the film Gladiator (Russell fighting a gladiator and a tiger), then returns to introduce Russell.

Diane Sawyer: And joining us now, the Roman general himself, Russell Crowe. "Strength and honor" is his code... are these the kind of heroes you grew up loving? Is that why he mattered?

Russell Crowe: Well when I was a little kid you know, I didn't think in terms of realism when I wanted to become an actor. I thought in terms of Robin Hood and legendary figures, so it's taken me... uh, let's see my first job was in 1970, so it's taken me 30 years to play that kind of character...

DS: (laughing) So you were 6 years old?

RC: yeah, yeah, first time I did a TV show. But, yeah I mean, he's a sort of hero that uh, he's the sort of hero that all those, he's flawed, he's a beastial man, (short laugh) -- he'll cleave your arm off if that's what he's required to do...

DS: Heyyyy, details (sarcastically and laughing)

RC: (laughs)

DS: The fact is though, and you and I were talking about this, there's something about this that is an intensely moral experience in a way that you don't see in a lot of movies, particularly cyber-surrounded movies, in which this is a real man who had to do epicly courageous things and it's based, if not on history, it's based on an idea from Roman times.

RC: Well, it's a moment in history, but Maximus the character is completely fictional. But uh, the time and the setting and the political intrigue behind the story, that's all historically correct.

DS: You went, according to Ridley Scott, from a paunchy middle-aged man whom you were playing in The Insider. Thirty-eight pounds later, you are "unfakeable male," I believe I read in one of the reviews. (Russell begins laughing.) What is "unfakeable maleness"? Is that just an "aussie bloke"?

RC: (still laughing) I'm not sure, it's somebody else's line.

DS: Is the physical part of this -- when you see this film, do you remember "physically" the pain of doing this movie? Because it seems that you were in endlessly difficult physical challenges.

RC: Yeah, it was, it was pretty intense. You know, the first battle sequence (video cuts to the battle scene) took place in about two foot of mud because it snowed the morning that we shot it so uh, trying to get around to 16, 17 different opponents -- you know with horses going past and catapults going off and dogs jumping through the frame and everthing -- was a little tricky.

And at one point in time there, you know, because of the mud, people were getting caught up and not actually hitting their marks. And the battle was over and the bodies were on the ground, and the steam's coming from the bodies (video returns to Russell) and everybody's sorta like heaving, that thing ... and I'm walking down through the bodies and just naturally all the other Roman soldiers sort of came to join Maximus, and it was like "wow, this a glorious moment!"

And through the middle of it, this one German extra, who'd missed his marks, he started running, trying to run past, and I was like (Russell makes a face like "I'm not having that!").. so I grabbed him cause I'm not going to let him get past me at that moment... I pulled him in front of me and he looks up at me with this plaintive voice, with his back to the camera, he goes: (Russell with an English accent pitches his voice very high, pantomimes this guy looking up at him, and says) "I'm not supposed to die yet" (Russell then pantomimes himself as Maximus, looking down at the man, sticking his sword in him and throwing him aside... everyone in the studio breaks up laughing) So, (laughing) there was a touch of Monty Python there...

DS: (still laughing a bit) Well, which brings me sort of indirectly to what we were talking about... in Time Magazine it says that you on the set were also "all warrior, hard-drinking perfectionist, re-writing the script on the spot." What is this about? What... is this 'temperament'? What is this?

RC: Well, it's about wanting to get things right. I mean, we went into this journey together, myself and Ridley, without a completed script, you know. But we had all the same scheduling pressures... but uh, normally, I'm very finicky about that, in terms of I've got to read the work that's been done on the page. You know, like a Michael Mann script, you know he's been working on it for five years, such as The Insider, you know... But um, you know Dreamworks is a company that in their short history they are very well known for putting their money on the screen. Ridley is one of the great visual stylists of our time -- I mean, Blade Runner, Alien -- so if you're ever gonna take, you know, a leap of faith and get involved in something that's not quite completely right -- you know the time period and I get to wear all these flash clothes, I mean it's very hard to be masculine when you're running around in a skirt, but you know, I do my best. (everyone laughs again) And you know, um, it was just the right time to take that leap of faith, you know?

DS: So, when you wake up in the morning, do you say "I've got a hit, it's a sweet day"?

RC: I don't know about that yet, you know the film hasn't opened. It's all very nice getting the reviews and everything...

DS: Are you superstitious?

RC: Yeah, absolutely, I'll just wait and see what happens.

DS: Alright, I think, I think you're going to be happy. Russell Crowe, so good to see you.

RC: Nice talking to you.

DS: Great to have you here!

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Source: Famous Magazine

May 2000

By: David Giammarco

How do you tell a great actor? By the price he demands? No. By how good he looks on screen? Obviously not. You can tell a great actor by how different he appears from role to role. In other words his acting. Accordingly, Russell Crowe, is a great actor.

The 36-year-old Aussie first became popular on North American soil as Bud White, the conflicted but sexy young cop in 1997's L.A. Confidential. Last year, he returned in The Insider, but this time was almost unrecognizable as a pudgy, middle-aged scientist with all the sex appeal of, well, a pudgy, middle-aged scientist. The performance earned him an Oscar nomination.

Now comes his third big role in a "Hollywood" picture--as General Maximus in Ridley Scott's Gladiator. Once again, Crowe looks completely different--black hair, muscular--and his performance is as powerful as his appearance.

From the Outback, Russell Crowe fought his way to the top of Tinseltown's A-list. Now, with the title role in Gladiator, he has a chance to carve that powerful position in stone.

He may not have won the Oscar, but in coming close, 36-year-old Aussie actor Russell Crowe feels he has conquered the world, "To me, it was an overwhelming privilege." Crowe says of the Best Actor nomination he earned for his turn as tobacco industry whistle-blower Jeffrey Wigand in The Insider. "I'm an Academy Award-nominated actor now for the rest of my career, no matter what crap I do."

Thankfully there isn't too much of that coming down Crowe's career pipeline. He is suddenly surfing a tidal wave of popularity and being offer A-list projects after years of toiling in Hollywood'' trenches. If L.A. Confidential (1997) first piqued audience interest in Crowe, and The Insider finally made his peers sit up and take notice, then this month's Gladiator will carve in stone his reign as one of the generation's greatest actors.

Directed by Ridley Scott (Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise) Gladiator is sweeping character epic of Cecil B. DeMille proportions that devotes as much attention to the gladiatorial brutality of ancient Rome as it does its assortment of Machiavellian characters. In short, it's an action film with brains. That's what intrigued Crowe, who says he'd been inundated with stacks of nonsensical action scripts each one worse than the last. But he admits that accepting Gladiator was still a giant leap of faith.

"They basically said to me, 'Look Russell, we don't have a script that you would care about, but we've got a concept. Ridley Scott . . . 185 AD . . . you start the movie as a Roman General. Do you want to talk to Ridley?" And I said 'Absolutely', because that really got into my imagination and I just couldn't let it go."

When Crowe finally did receive the script he wasn't impressed. "They were right it wasn't very good. " He says with a laugh, firing up the first of many cigarettes. He's sitting in a suite at the Century Plaza in L.A., dressed casually in black jeans and a black shirt. "It was too modern, too cynical, had gags about advertising in it. It just didn't make any sense to go to that place with such a facile set of dialogue and scenes."

Remarkably, all elements came together resulting in what is one of the first real Oscar contenders of the year. But it's a chance Crowe doesn't want to take again. "It turned out really well, so we were lucky." He says. "But if it had turned out bad, then that would've affected me ever taking a leap of faith again. Because you can have 5,000 blokes charging through the forest on horseback, you can have lions and tigers, and you can have a spectacle as big as you want, but if you don't have a story that means anything to people then there is really very little point to making the movie. "The fact it worked out so well is really surprising," he adds, "because all we had was this concept and a belief in each other's abilities to pull it off."

That they did. The $100 million film pits Crowe, as beloved Roman General Maximus against the conniving Emperor Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), who decides Maximus, must be executed in order to prevent his rightful claim to the throne. But Maximus escapes death, in dramatic fashion, by slaying his executioner and is then exiled into slavery, where he quietly plots the downfall of the young emperor. Shot on location in Malta and Morocco, director Scott even went so far as to build part of a full scale replica of the Colosseum and a gladiator "training area"--complete with ferocious felines.

"This was certainly the most physically demanding film I've ever done." Says Crowe "When I made (the hockey film) Mystery Alaska, I didn't think I would ever find a movie where I could punish myself any more than that, but I was wrong. I ended up cracking a bone in my foot. I fractured my hip (they had to shoot around him for a few days), both bicep tendons popped out. And I still don't have any feeling in the top of this finger (he holds up the index finger of his left hand) because it got slashed in the very first battle sequence with a sword that was covered in dirt.'"

But all the pain was worth it. "When I walked into the Colosseum and there's 5,000 extras shouting Max-I-Mus! Max-I-Mus! Max-I-Mus! and chariots and lions, are all around you--it was truly the most thrilling experience of my life. That is theatre on a grand scale. And nothing can compare to that feeling."

Crowe admits he is accused of being "arrogant", but it's simply a level of confidence that is often misconstrued. "See, I'm a very mediocre guitarist," he says, "so, I can't sit down and jam with Eric Clapton with any level of competence. But I can jam with any actor who walks the planet and know, with absolute confidence, I will fulfill the needs of my character and be open enough to take in whatever information is given at the time and expand it and keep that damn thing real. It's as simple as that."

Crowe is currently in Poland wrapping up production on Taylor Hackford's Proof of Life with Meg Ryan, and then jumps immediately into his good friend Jodie Foster's next directorial effort, Flora Plum, where he will play a freak show beast opposite Claire Danes. He says he's handling this unrelenting work schedule well, "but I don't get to spend enough time with the people that I love, or in the place that I love much anymore. I have become the king of Frequent Flier Miles. But I'm an actor, mate, and I've done it for a long time, and there is a certain level of the gypsy in the job. And I guess it's the change of perspective and the change of geography, which actually makes my life interesting. Otherwise it would just be the same series of cowbums in a cattleyard for me. "In order to complete the fantasy of my life, which is to work at the highest level in the art form that I've chosen to work in, then I've got to keep getting on airplanes," he adds. "But look at the people I'm getting to work with. Look at the experiences I'm having. Look at the diversity of characters I'm getting to play. So believe me mate, I don't have any complaints."




Russell, Danielle and Charlie on Fingerwharf in Woolloomooloo, NSW ~ 2005

     

     




Source: The Telegraph (UK)

May 1, 2010

Russell Crowe as Robin Hood: Maximus goes to Nottingham
By Sally Williams

There are many extraordinary things about being on the set of the new Ridley Scott film Robin Hood. We are in Bourne Wood, near Farnham in Surrey, a recreational area known for its pine trees and sandy footpaths, but today there is a colossal French castle on the crest of a hill. How did they do that, you find yourself asking. Had I come a week earlier, I would have found a medieval town here too, painstakingly recreated by thatching experts and wattle specialists, but then the crew set the whole town on fire as part of the action and now there is only scorched earth and blackened stumps.

Today they are shooting the film's big opening scene where Richard the Lionheart storms a castle in France. There are 125 horses, 500 archers, a lot of shouting and a lot of mud. There is everything castle legends tell you to expect: flaming arrows; a battering ram; a flood of burning pitch. But perhaps the most extraordinary thing is that only on a Ridley Scott film could this vast throng of 1,000 people, trucks and equipment possibly be described as a "medium-size set".

"It's kind of scary. We're doing bigger things most days than many do in their entire films," Charlie Schlissel, the executive producer, says. "But we're taking one of the greatest British filmmakers and giving him one of the most classic British tales, so you expect him to bring some life to it."

Written by the Oscar-winning screenwriter Brian Helgeland, and filmed in England and Wales, Robin Hood features a stellar cast: Russell Crowe as Robin; Cate Blanchett as Marian; Max von Sydow as her father, Sir Walter Loxley; William Hurt as Sir William Marshall; Danny Huston as Richard the Lionheart; Mark Strong as Sir Godfrey; and Matthew Macfadyen as the Sheriff of Nottingham. With a budget of £130 million, it also has visual ambitions on a magnificent scale.

Nottingham Village, for example, was created on the Hampton estate near Guildford, where the crew constructed 50 buildings (including a church, a tavern and a mill with a working water wheel), planted an orchard, created a river, and generally prepped 600 acres of meadowland. The battle scene on the beach at St David's, Wales, involved hundreds of horses, 400 boats and 1,500 extras.

But then Ridley Scott is known for epic scale (Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator). He likes big-landscape shots, scenes that are continually awesome and thrilling. And he likes Russell Crowe - as well as Gladiator they have worked together on A Good Year, American Gangster and Body of Lies. Gladiator won an Oscar for best picture in 2000. Robin Hood aims to be the same huge period spectacle: "the Gladiator version of Robin Hood," according to its producer, Brian Grazer. It re-unites Ridley Scott not only with his strong hero from Gladiator - Crowe played Maximus, the Roman general who became a gladiator slave - but also with Arthur Max, the Bafta-winning production designer. Robin Hood even shares the same location as Gladiator: Bourne Wood.

"Ridley was looking for a forest he could burn and the only forest he could burn was near Bratislava," Schlissel says. "Ridley didn't want to go to Bratislava, so he came here and they [the Forestry Commission] said he could burn some trees."

But there is one big difference, of course. Gladiator breathed life into a genre that had been absent from the big screen since films such as Ben-Hur, Spartacus and The Fall of the Roman Empire from the 1960s. Robin Hood, on the other hand, has featured in more than 30 film and television productions, ranging from Douglas Fairbanks (Robin Hood, 1922) to Errol Flynn (The Adventures of Robin Hood, 1952); Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn (Robin and Marian, 1976); and Kevin Costner's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,(1991); as well as the popular 1950s television series starring Richard Greene, and the more recent BBC series (2006).

"Robin Hood movies for the most part are underwhelming," observes Ridley Scott, who has claimed that his favourite version is Mel Brooks's Men in Tights (1993). "I don't think this is going to be underwhelming in any shape or form. We're trying to combine a little bit of seriousness with the real romance of what we think and dream Robin Hood movies to be.'

Robin Hood opens in 1199 with a siege and the death of a king. Richard the Lionheart is killed by an arrow in his neck while collecting a small debt from a French castle on his way home from his Third Crusade in the Holy Lands. (He needs the money because he is penniless after years of fighting.)

This is where we first meet Robin Hood, or rather Robin Longstride, long-serving infantryman in King Richard's army. Rendered leaderless, Robin heads home - the first time he has been back since he was five. And he doesn't like what he finds: poverty, corruption, unchecked power. ("You were not allowed to pick up firewood in the forest, not allowed to take your pigs into the forest to eat acorns, not allowed to do anything without the permission of the king," Crowe will later instruct me; expertise gathered, he says, from reading more than 30 books about Robin Hood and the late-12th and 13th centuries.)

England is bankrupt thanks to Richard's war mongering, threatened by a civil war and by France, and in the hands of an inept successor, John, best known for introducing PAYE tax. The country is riven by inequality, and the air humming with revolution. Step forward Robin Hood, who becomes its champion.

Direct action, it transpires, is in his DNA: his father was Thomas Longstride, the principal author of what was to become the Forest Charter, a precedent to Magna Carta which provided rights and privileges for the common man against the aristocracy. Longstride was executed for his efforts, an event witnessed by his young son, aged five. This is the back-story to a film that is itself a back-story: "Ridley wanted to tell the man-before-the-myth version of Robin Hood," explains Brian Helgeland, whose screenwriting Oscar was for LA Confidential. "Everybody knows the myth, and obviously that is an exaggeration of the real events. This myth is rooted in the downtrodden and the idea that whenever the powers-that-be need to be checked, a man will rise up and look after the common people. Especially in English history, it's been an outlaw that has filled that position. What Ridley wanted to do was to imagine what the real events might have been from which the Robin Hood legend sprang."

Helgeland fleshes out the characters of the Sheriff of Nottingham, Marian and her father-in-law, and fixes Robin in a particular patch of history to expose the power of the barons and how England was controlled at the time. It takes audiences up close to the hardship and poverty, the sort of world where Robin Hood learnt his trade, and ends where most of the Robin Hood films begin: with an outlaw. Only this time Robin Hood is not a larky swashbuckler but a master of grave intent. It's a tough, macho, muddy take: a far cry from the soft focus of Prince of Thieves ("Robin Hood-lite," Arthur Max scoffs). Here is a film working hard to prove to audiences that Robin Hood comprises more than Kevin Costner prancing around in tights. (In fact, Crowe wears leather breeches. "They're called braies," Janty Yates, the costume designer, explains. "Like leather or suede stockings, not the knitted horrors we've seen in Robin Hood films since about 1923. They're a bit more macho.")

Not that Robin Hood had a straightforward journey to the screen. The film began in 2006 with Brian Grazer and a script called Nottingham. This was reworked into Robin Hood after Russell Crowe said he would play the lead. "I don't think there's been a satisfying Robin Hood. That is one of the key reasons for wanting to make another one," Crowe says, adding that Richard Greene's Robin Hood was part of his childhood. "I've just always liked the idea that there is somebody out there who cares."

Ridley Scott, on the other hand, favoured Rupert Bear, the Lone Ranger and Roy Rogers as a child. "I wasn't sure about it, actually, when Russell came to me," he recalls. "But he said, 'Come on! We should do this. We'll change things.' And that's how it began." They recruited Helgeland, who came up with the drive to "humanise the legend". But the film had a halting start because of direct action of a different kind: the 2007 writers' strike; and the threat of the Screen Actors Guild strike, in 2008. The 91-day shoot finally began in April 2009. "Getting this thing moving forward was tough," Schlissel says. "It [industrial action] added a year to the process."

11pm, July 23: the crew are about to shoot an elaborately choreographed fight scene between Robin Hood and Little John (Kevin Durand) at King Richard's camp in a valley in Bourne Wood. Robin Longstride (who has yet to return to England and discover his revolutionary alter ego) is running a casino on the camp for his fellow soldiers and a brawl breaks out over an unpaid bill. The atmosphere is rich with campfires, drunken soldiers, human voices against the night, breath that steams the air. Scott has spared no expense in furnishing the camp down to the last bunch of redcurrants in Richard's exquisite Italian and French silk tent, the archers' chainmail (plastic, by the way, and the product of two lengthy processes, first in China and then New Zealand).

"OK, let's shoot this puppy," the assistant director shouts. Crowe takes off his fleece and suddenly here is Robin Hood: stocky, stubbled, and though shorter than most of the men around him, walking taller than any of them. But here too is Maximus: same low brow, quick eyes and cropped hair.

"I grew my hair long for ages," Crowe explains, "and when we started filming, he [Scott] said let's do that thing where you chop your hair right down and wear a beard. I said that's Maximus, and he said look, if we're going to steal from anybody, I think we're OK to steal from ourselves."

"Russell has massive strength, determination and a definitive heroic quality," Scott says. "He's a man's man."

And Crowe has found his match in Cate Blanchett's Marian, who isn't a maid at all, but a feisty widow who mucks out stables, runs the estate and is spared the standard activities of courtly heroines: picking herbs for monks, hand-rearing forest fawns. "The idea of a damsel in distress has been a constant irritation of all female actors," Scott says. "I didn't want Marian to be umbilical, the female interest - that awful description - so we avoided it like crazy; and you don't do that [female interest] with Cate Blanchett."

"Because Russell and Ridley have such a long history together of making films that go straight to the heart of the matter, it was a very exciting combination for me," Blanchett says. But this wasn't the only reason she was drawn to the film. "The power of the forest is at the heart of the Robin Hood myth. We're so saturated with the power of the state, and the power of the church. As an antidote, the rule of nature is really enticing."

One interesting aspect of Ridley Scott's work is his cavalier attitude to the script. "He'll say, right, I want a little more spirituality or I want more iconographic Robin Hood moments," says Crowe, who also enjoys variations on the story; they seal their camaraderie by discussing options. "Listen - this will be great. Robin goes hunting, see, and then ...."

Matthew Macfadyen says he arrived on set with only four scenes as the Sheriff of Nottingham, but ended up with six and a wildly different outcome. The script was "quite fluid", he says. "First I was going to be stabbed by Cate Blanchett, then I got new pages through and I was killed by Mark Strong [Sir Godfrey], then I was going to be murdered by a thug on horseback. So my deaths got worse and worse."

In fact, Scott liked his performance so much that he kept him alive. "The Sheriff is more of an idiot than an evil psycho," Macfadyen says.

There is another distinctive feature to Scott's shooting style. "He likes multiple cameras, which take a long time to set up but once you have them you're covering a lot of angles at the same time," Schlissel says. "So all the footage cuts together." Mark Strong, who worked with Scott on his Jordanian intelligence thriller Syriana, reveals that when Scott watches the monitors with the script supervisor, as the scene plays back he taps the screen at moments, editing as he goes along.

"He's going, 'I think I'll use that moment and that moment and that moment.' He's so in control of his game that you just feel safe in his hands."

It is for his visual acumen that Scott, a former art director, is famed: "the Titian of filmmaking," Crowe observes. Scott seems to provoke this sort of awed devotion in those who work with him: he shoots in the same way an artist paints, using backlight to create shadows behind the actors (Pieter Breugel and George de la Tour were aesthetic inspirations on Robin Hood); he does his own storyboards before shooting starts each day. "I can really draw," he says, "but it's not about drawing, it's actually about making you think."

He has an acute visual memory and references specific imagery from an extraordinary variety of films: the river scene in The Lion in Winter (1968) when Katharine Hepburn comes up the river in a barge ("Ridley said that is the way the river should look," Arthur Max says); The Name of the Rose (1986, the bleakness of the abbey); The Return of Martin Guerre (1982, farming lifestyle); Pelle the Conqueror (1988, rusty armour); On the Waterfront (1954, Terry Malloy's pigeon coop - "A whole room rather than just a dovecote, so spatially interesting," Max says).

Scott owes much to Max, who furnished the world that took place in Scott's mind. Look at any of the set detail in this 144-minute film, from portcullis to doorknobs, and you can be sure it has been pored over and hunted down by Max and his team. "We've done a lot of big movies," he says, "but this is the biggest we've ever done."

The huge slab-slate roofs on the houses in Nottingham were taken from a village in the Iberian Peninsula (they took moulds of the slabs); the crude, raw look to 12th-century London, achieved by using reclaimed chestnut, oak and hickory from old barns in Bulgaria; the 11th/12th-century cog boat that floats into the Royal Dock at the Tower of London (really Virginia Water) is an exact replica, but with a draft of only 18in so it could navigate the shallow water. "I'm very proud of that," Max says. And the bureaucracy was a nightmare: it took two weeks and "a whole bunch of presentations" to get permission to prune one branch from an oak tree - the downside of filming in the Queen's personal riding wood in Windsor Great Park.

2am, July 24: back on the set at Bourne Wood, Ridley Scott has finished shooting. (And Crowe has finished his movie-star turn for the crew and extras: an impromptu version of Bruce Springsteen's Highway Patrolman.) "This is the small bit, by the way," Scott reminds me as we survey the valley in the half-light: the trucks, cameramen, gaffers, script supervisors, generators, smoke machines, tents, cauldrons, fire extinguishers, campfires, stables, horses and 1,000 people packing up to go home. "It's massive, what we've been doing."

Robin Hood, released on May 14, is the opening- night film of the Cannes Festival on May 12




Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

May 1, 2010

Cate Blanchett has 'playfully combative' friendship with Russell Crowe
By Ruben V. Nepales

London - soft beams of sunset filtering through the windows of a meeting room at The Dorchester Hotel cast a luminous glow on Cate Blanchett's lovely face. But the total impact of Cate's regal presence, matched by her elegant voice and accent, was humorously "sabotaged" by a "Robin Hood" poster in the background that showed a glowering Russell Crowe seemingly shooting an arrow at her. The amusing juxtaposition unwittingly underscored the "playfully combative" (her words) friendship they have forged. Cate plays Lady Marion to Russell's take on the Sheriff of Nottingham in the movie directed by Ridley Scott, which features a cast of Merry Men that includes Russell's real-life friends.

A quintessentially modern woman juggling motherhood and career, Cate is also the co-artistic director (with her husband Andrew Upton) of the Sydney Theatre Company, a job which requires the Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning actress to spend some time in an office.

Below are excerpts from our interview with Cate, who spoke with wit and humor about her equally famous fellow Aussie:

RN: What's the difference between you and Maid Marion?

CB: I probably gave in to Russell about as much as Marion did (to Robin Hood).

RN: Talk about giving in to Russell ....

CB: Or not giving in to Russell (laughing).

RN: Tell us about working with him for the first time.

CB:We've had a very wickedly funny e-mail correspondence which I really relish. He's got a great sense of humor. As Australians, because we live in a land mass the size of North America but where there's only 20 million of us, the performing industry is really quite small. So you get invested in one another's successes, achievements and career paths. I've followed Russell's career with great interest. He is a force of nature (laughing). Like Ridley is a force of nature. Russell's reputation precedes him. So you wonder how are we going to be together? But I found him incredibly generous and absolutely dedicated.

RN: Russell told us about asking an audience at a gala unveiling your stamps if they thought that you and he should make a movie together.

CB: Before we went up the podium, Russell said he was going to ask me to be in a film with him in front of everyone and take a vote. I said, "I dare you." And he did. That's kind of how the relationship followed. We are playfully combative. That probably came across in the dynamics of the film. I'm very fond of him.

RN: After you joked at that event that you can't wait to be licked by thousands of Australians, Russell reportedly leaned over and told you that the stamps are self-adhesive now.

CB: I'm an old-fashioned girl (laughing).

RN: Russell also said he really liked how, after a hard day's work, you sat back, put your feet up, had vodka and told stories.

CB: I did have a few vodkas. He drove me to it. I had never touched a drop before working with him.

RN: I guess he appreciated how you're able to unwind ....

CB: As a drunk human being. It's like a tennis match. You go out and do something together. I used to do that more before I had children. Now, I'm constantly looking at my watch and thinking, can I pick them up from school? Will I get home in time to put them to bed? So it was great that the kids were with us and were there on the set often. At the end of the day, they were in the trailer. So it became like a summer barbecue.

RN: This is also your first time to work with Ridley Scott.

CB: Ridley and I had once talked about making something else together. That didn't come to pass. So when this came around, I grabbed the chance. He may say he's not a perfectionist (but) Steven Spielberg also says that. Ridley and Steven are such masters of their craft that, if a shot is not working, they're able to jettison a whole huge set up, move everything over and create an equally interesting shot. It's so thrilling to be part of that.

But what I really loved about working with Ridley is that he'd phrase things in a way that you could never say no. He'd say, "I want you to walk through behind that horse while another one is going to run at you. But you're going to step backwards, go around, hit that guy with the broadsword, turn around, hit the other guy with the broadsword, go upstairs, open the building and then all these people are going to run out coughing because that building is going to be filled with smoke. That's OK, isn't it?" You go, "Yes, OK, let's go."

RN: Did playing a woman who worked hard on the field make you think about how tough it was back then?

CB: I'm always doing that. I'm one of those annoying mothers who go to the supermarket and say to my boys, "See this piece of meat in plastic? That was a cow once!" My boys get it every day. They just roll their eyes.

RN: Did you relish the physicality of the role and how much mud was on your body? CB: It's a matter of wiping the Weetabix cereal and cornflakes off and putting the dirt on. It's sort of one dirt replaces another.

RN: How do you manage to be a mother of three boys and an active actress at the same time?

CB: The boys were always on the set with me. But now they need to be in school so that's harder to do. I go to the office two days a week. I pick them up from school every day. That works really well.