May 13, 2010
Crowe is character actor in leading man's body
Star can play heroes such as 'Robin Hood' plus bring nuances to small roles
by Michael Ventre
There once was an old "Saturday Night Live" skit in which Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner argued over whether a particular product was a floor wax or a dessert topping. In stepped Chevy Chase to settle the matter: It was a floor wax AND a dessert topping, he declared. A rare combination indeed.
Cut to Hollywood, present day. That argument might very well be raging anew - not over an aerosol can labeled "New Shimmer," but rather about an actor named Russell Crowe.
"He's a leading man!"
"No, he's a character actor!"
"Hey, calm down, you two. He's a leading man AND a character actor!"
In his new film "Robin Hood," which opens May 14, the debate is temporarily moot. The trailer and one-sheets clearly define Crowe as a leading man: brawny, forceful, defiant, someone to follow into battle. He carries a bow and arrow and he knows how to use it. Quiver? That's for his enemies. Crowe has played the leading man before in such films as "Gladiator" - for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor - and "Proof of Life."
Yet he also excels in roles in which he has to become someone else entirely. He received Oscar nominations for two such parts, in "A Beautiful Mind" and "The Insider."
It could also be said that Crowe likes hybrids: The roles he played in "American Gangster," "3:10 to Yuma," "Cinderella Man" and "L.A. Confidential" were chameleon-like enough to qualify as character parts, but also had the rugged masculinity to fit in the leading man category.
"Any movie that he's in I'm intrigued to see, just because he's in it," said Claudia Puig, longtime film critic for USA Today. "I'm actually more of a fan of his character roles than his big action films like 'Gladiator' or 'Robin Hood.' I like to see him in intelligent roles.
"There's so much nuance and depth in those kinds of parts, as opposed to being brawny and yelling. He has a very masculine presence and it works in those roles, but he can show more of his instrument and his depth in smaller character-driven roles."
Reputation may have only burnished credentials
The word "difficult" follows Crowe around like a member of the paparazzi, but in fairness, it has been used often to describe anyone in Hollywood with an independent streak. Sometimes that label can scare off potential employers. In Crowe's case, it seems to have burnished his already golden credentials.
"Bad boy behavior is tolerated, even somewhat vicariously enjoyed by some people. It's certainly enjoyed by rock stars," noted Todd McCarthy, longtime film critic for Variety who recently joined indiewire.com. "(Marlon) Brando had that quality."
Crowe once threw a phone at a hotel employee. He was involved in a much-publicized affair with Meg Ryan. He has battled with producers and snarled at reporters.
Yet each time he acts in a film, it's an event. "His success as an actor has nothing to do with the cult of personality or a magnetic persona, as it does with quite a few other actors," Puig explained. "Quite the opposite. In fact, he's by many accounts notoriously difficult.
"He's known for being just as demanding of himself as he appears to be of others. And the fact that so many directors, and actors, want to work with him speaks volumes about his talent, pure and simple. They'll put up with whatever other aspects about him are difficult because he is so exceptionally skilled at what he does. That is not often the case in Hollywood, where volatile actors often see their careers falter, if not completely disappear.
"If you get a reputation of being hard to work with, that can be the death knell for your career. But such never seems to be the case with Crowe, whose talent outweighs the troublesome side."
In the 2007 release "American Gangster," Crowe played Richie Roberts, a New York detective on the trail of heroin kingpin Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington). The film was directed by Ridley Scott, who also worked with Crowe on "Gladiator," "Body of Lies," "A Good Year" and the upcoming "Robin Hood."
Academy Award-winning screenwriter and director Steven Zaillian wrote the screenplay for "American Gangster" and said it is Crowe's commitment to his craft that puts him in his own stratosphere.
"Like anything else, there has to be some innate talent to act," Zaillian said. "To do it well - again, like anything - there has to be a good work ethic, which includes preparation.
"What sets Russell apart from other good actors - and which allows him, I think, to be convincing in both leading and character roles - are his real-life experiences. He wasn't always an actor, and isn't now only an actor. He has - and had - a life of interests apart from film, which he can draw from for his work in film.
"In 'American Gangster,' he brought - like he has to so many other parts - intelligence, authority, realism, and, to even further round it out, humor."
Said Nick Pileggi, himself an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for "Goodfellas" who served as executive producer on "American Gangster," of Crowe's performance in that film: "His presence was critical. It would not have been as good a movie without him, even though it already had Denzel Washington, Ridley Scott and a Steve Zaillian script."
McCarthy said Crowe is good enough to push even further beyond categorization. Back during awards season for "Gladiator," McCarthy moderated a panel discussion that included Scott. Crowe arrived as a special surprise guest to pay tribute to Scott.
Video: Crowe pushed himself for 'Robin Hood'
"I remember he broke into song, and his voice was so great I thought, 'He should do a musical,'" McCarthy said. "He did 'The Rocky Horror Show' in Australia when he was young. He could be great in a Rodgers and Hammerstein, or a Lerner and Loewe. He's extremely versatile."
When describing Crowe, McCarthy again turns to Brando, arguably the greatest film actor ever.
"He's (Crowe) one of those actors you just watch. He's interesting just being there," he said. "I like him in brooding introspective roles, like Brando. He just holds you. You feel the pent-up emotion and the brooding in him because I think he's a turbulent guy, like Brando. That works to his benefit."
Whatever Crowe has, it appears to work for him. "As for how he's regarded in Hollywood," Zaillian said, "I don't know anyone who wouldn't put him very near, or at, the top."
May 13, 2010
Crowe and Blanchett tread the Cannes red carpet
Cannes, France - Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett have sashayed along the Cannes Film Festival's famous red carpet ahead of the world premiere of their action blockbuster Robin Hood. Both Aussie Oscar winners sent their good wishes to director Sir Ridley Scott, who was unable to join them in the French riviera town on Wednesday because he is still recovering from knee surgery.
Wearing a black dinner suit and sunglasses, Crowe said it was an honour and privilege to be in Cannes to launch the film about the English folklore hero he plays. "It's a great event, I'm really pleased to be here," the actor told TV Festival de Cannes. "And it's a wonderful thing for my friend Ridley Scott to have his film opening the festival." Asked if he had a message for the acclaimed director, Crowe beamed into the camera and said: "Hello mate, how you doing? Hope you get better soon."
Crowe, accompanied by wife Danielle Spencer in a floor-length white gown, also hinted that he and his Robin Hood co-stars were looking forward to celebrating well into the night. "My merry men will be here," he said. "Just like last night we'll be doing a show on the street somewhere."
Blanchett, wearing an off-the-shoulder black gown with white tulle skirt, described the festival as "magnifico". "To be here with a film that's opening the festival, it's an honour," she said. "It's a shame that Ridley can't be here tonight because he's such an extraordinary director. Get well soon Ridley, we miss you."
Crowe and Blanchett received a standing ovation from the who's who of the movie world, including Hollywood stars Eva Longoria, Tim Burton and Salma Hayek, as they moved inside the Palais des Festivals to take their seats for the premiere.
May 13, 2010
Blanchett confides secret desire to play Robin Hood
By Belinda Tasker
Cannes, France - Cate Blanchett had a hint of the green-eyed monster in her eyes when she turned up to work alongside Russell Crowe on the set of their action blockbuster Robin Hood. Cast to play Maid Marion to Crowe's English folklore hero, Blanchett couldn't help but want to swap her character's demure long dresses for her co-star's bow and arrow. Instead, the Oscar winner had to settle on creating a feistier version of Marion than had been portrayed in the past by actresses including Olivia de Havilland and Audrey Hepburn.
"To be honest, Olivia de Havilland was a great beauty but I always wanted to be Robin Hood rather than Maid Marion, but the part was taken," Blanchett confided to hundreds of reporters at a packed press conference after the movie kicked off the Cannes Film Festival on Wednesday. But despite her longing to play Robin, the Aussie actress had no chance of convincing her compatriot Crowe or director Sir Ridley Scott that there should be a cast change. "I was put back in my box," Blanchett laughed.
Blanchett cut a glamorous figure in the Cannes sunshine as she teamed up with Crowe to front the world's press before Robin Hood's premiere on the opening night of the 12-day movie marathon on the French Riviera. Dressed in an ice pick Armani cocktail dress and cap-sleeved jacket for the press conference, Blanchett's outfit was a far cry from the rather grimy frocks she sports in the movie. "I used a lot of mud (in the film)," she said. "I usually came down to the set relatively clean and Ridley would pick something off the ground and smear it on me. It's a fetish or something, I'm not quite sure."
Another wardrobe secret she revealed was that the hefty looking chain mail she donned for a key beachfront battle between French invaders and English soldiers led by Robin Hood near the movie's finale wasn't all that it appeared. "The chain mail was plastic," Blanchett said with a grin, sparking laughs from reporters.
And what did she think of Crowe having swapped Robin Hood's famous green tights for leather trousers? "They're pretty fetching," she said with a cheeky smile. While she might have had a spot of role-envy, Blanchett was thrilled to work with Crowe and Scott and be able to have her three sons join her for the shoot in England and Wales during the northern summer of 2009. "I think it was probably one of the greatest summers of my two eldest sons' lives," she said before Crowe chimed in to remind her about the other perks of the job. "Oh yes, and I got to kiss Russell," she laughed. "Sorry, I practised that line and I forgot to say it."
Hundreds of reporters watched a special screening of the film before its official premiere on Wednesday night at the landmark Palais des Festivals in the heart of Cannes. But the huge auditorium wasn't full and the movie, which tells the story of how Robin Hood became a legendary outlaw after meeting Maid Marion, received a fairly muted reaction from the journalists and critics who watched it. Several critics had already seen it at special advance screenings around the world and many broke embargoes designed to keep their reviews, which were somewhat lukewarm, under wraps until the movie's debut at the festival.
During repeated questions about the film's historical accuracy, Crowe insisted the movie, which spans the years from the death of England's King Richard I in 1199 to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, was not meant to be a history lesson. He said he and Scott, who have worked together on four other movies including Gladiator, deliberately took an "arrogant perspective", with Blanchett quickly reminding the assembled reporters: "And hell, we're Australians". "We took the perspective that whatever you think you know about Robin Hood is a previously understandable mistake," Crowe said. "What you have to do is you have to do enough to pique people's curiosity and that's what Gladiator did. "There was just enough accurate history in there that felt real ... and it encouraged people to go and follow their own curiosity and ask questions for themselves. "I believe that Robin Hood will do the same. "The main shift that we made ... is that King Richard the Lion Heart, rides in most Robin Hoods and saves the day, but we kill him in the first scene. "You can pretend or say that we're standing under a banner saying 'historical accuracy' but we're not."
Crowe believes that there is a little bit of Robin Hood in everyone and that the story of the famous character who robbed from the rich to give to the poor still has plenty of relevance in today's world. "The funny thing about Robin Hood is, I think, strangely there's an element of Robin Hood lying in the heart of all of us in that if our world was to go completely pear shaped we would hope somebody would stand up and try and redress the balance," he said. "People have been asking me would Robin Hood's aim be political, would he aim at certain figures and try and bring them down? "Would his aim be economic? Would he be looking at Wall Street and the huge sums of money that people have been patting themselves on the back with and the sub-prime mortgage collapse and all that? "Or would he be looking at what you guys do for a living and realise that the true wealth lies in the dissemination of information? "My theory would be if Robin Hood was alive today he would be looking at the monopolisation of media as the greatest enemy."
Leaving aside theories about who the outlaw would take on in today's world, Crowe hinted there could be a return to the medieval days of Sherwood Forest for another instalment of Robin Hood's adventures if the film is a box office success. "If I had the opportunity to redress what happens next with Ridley and with Cate, then great let's do it," Crowe said. And as for Blanchett's chances of starring in a sequel - be it as Maid Marion or as the hero she is desperate to play - the actress was coy. "I haven't been asked yet," she said.
Source: Showbiz 411.com
May 13, 2010
Russell Crowe: Cate Blanchett is A Good Kisser
By Roger Friedman in Celebrity, Movies
Cate Blanchett is the perfect woman.
Forget the fact that she spoke perfect, fluent French last night from the stage of the Palais des Festivals for the Cannes Film Festival premiere of "Robin Hood."
Or that she walked, in high heels, in the rain, on a soaked red carpet from the Palais, down the huge outdoor staircase, up a long sidewalk and across the street to the Majestic Hotel after the "Robin Hood" premiere covered just by a large umbrella and holding-bunched up in one arm-the train of her specially designed Alexander McQueen gown.
The black and white dress, emblazoned with an eagle, was designed for Blanchett for the March 7th Academy Awards by McQueen. It was the last dress he personally cut, her agent told me, before tragically committed suicide on February 11th.
I was walking behind her, in a group of Blanchettes, and her publicist Lisa Kasteller said, "I wish someone took this picture." For once, there was no paparazzi. It looked like a picture out of the old Life magazine!
Forget all that. Russell Crowe told me last night, at the very late night after party for "Robin Hood." something more important: "She's a great kisser."
Blanchett was also a sport. The wild, climactic war scene from "Robin Hood" took 11 days to film, with 1500 extras, on a beach in Wales last summer. Crowe says he was there the whole time, despite British press reports.
"We also stayed in trailers. I did a lot of cooking," he told me. "Mostly steaks and chicken. Did you know my mum was a movie caterer when I was growing up?" he asked.
I did not. Neither did Benicio del Toro, who was sitting with Crowe and hanging on his every word.
"Cate would change and come hang out with us boys," Crowe said, and smiled admiringly. He loved that about her, too. "And you can see we do have great chemistry on screen."
They do. And a sequel to "Robin Hood" seems likely to us viewers, Crowe says it would be "incredibly expensive."
"We have to hit a number," he told me, "on this one and see how we do."
"Robin Hood" is a big old fashioned movie, and one not to miss when it's released Friday. The human scope of it is grand and all real. There's very little CGI. The big scenes were all shot - especially one with gigantic landing barges carrying the extras to battle on that Welsh beach.
There are also a lot of bows and arrows. Some of them are obviously computer generated. But Crowe says he got into it. "My instructor asked me what I liked about it, and I said I loved the flight of the arrow, not the hitting of the target. He replied that meant I was the real thing."